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1 07 583 


His Life and Reign 

ALo by Harold M'olwn 


A Study in Allied Unity iSis-iS 
BYRON: The Last Journy 


CURZON: The Last Phaw 


A Study in Old Diplomacy 






June 4, 1933 


His Life and Reign 






First published /pjj, in the Unit 

Printed in Gnat Britain 


WHEN, in June 1948, I was invited to undertake this work, I was 
told that, after King George's death, it had been decided that his 
biography should be written in two separate instalments and en- 
trusted to two different authors. 

The first instalment was to be a portrait of the man himself; it was 
to describe his private life and to give a picture of his homes, friend- 
ships, occupations, tastes and hobbies. This task was entrusted to Mr 
John Gore, who brought to his work the application of a trained 
scholar, the liveliness of an alert mind, great gifts of selection and 
arrangement, and the agreeable virtues of tact and taste. His book 
was published by John Murray in 1941 under the title King George V. 
A Personal Memoir* 

My own task, as the author chosen for the second instalment, was 
to chronicle King George's public life and to examine his attitude 
towards the successive political issues of his reign. To attempt a com- 
prehensive history of those years of transition would, I soon realised, 
throw the biography out of scale. With many of the major events of 
his reign, King George was only indirectly concerned: to have 
identified him directly with these events would have been to falsify 
proportions, and to confuse what I anticipated would prove this 
book's most useful theme. My desire was to suggest some answer to the 
two questions: 'How does a Monarchy function in a modern State?' 
and c To what extent were the powers and influence of the Monarchy 
diminished or increased during the twenty five years of King George's 

The relevant papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor, to which, 
by gracious permission of His late Majesty I was accorded unrestricted 
access, fall into six main categories: 

(1) Papers dealing with King George's childhood and education. 
They include letters from Mr Dalton to the Prince of Wales and Queen 
Victoria, reports from tutors and instructors, letters from naval com- 
mandants etc. 

(2) King George's own diaries. These run without intermission 
from May 3 1880 to January 17 1936. Even when he was ill he would 
dictate bis daily entry to Queen Mary or one of his nurses. The diaries 
fall into three divisions: (a) a small pocket engagement book for the year 
1878, begun on July 30 and given up three days later: (b) a section 
from May 3, 1880 to January i, 1881 written on loose sheets torn from 

Author's Note 

an engagement block: (c) a section from January i, 1881 to December 
31, 1886, written in the ordinary diaries provided by stationers which 
have subsequently been bound up together: and <^d] the main diary 
running from January i, 1887 to the end, written carefully on specially 
prepared paper and filling twenty five large volumes bound in Morocco 
and to be opened only by a small gold key. 

(3) Letters from and to Queen Victoria, King Edward and Queen 
Alexandra, King George and Queen Olga of Greece, Prince George of 
Greece, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of 
Kent. These personal letters are either bound or filed in strict chrono- 
logical sequence and bear no registration numbers. They can, how- 
ever, be readily identified by their dates. 

(4) The main files, comprising the official correspondence, minutes 
and memoranda. These are contained in canvas boxe> labelled by the 
initial letters A. B. C etc, according to subject. In these boxes will be 
found the letters addressed to Ministers by the King's Private Secretaries 
and the records of his audiences and interviews. 

I have been through all these papers myself: the only section for 
which I obtained assistance was that dealing with ecclesiastical prefer- 
ments and honours. In sorting out these dull but numerous documents, 
I had the valuable help of Miss M. Alcock, formerly Private Secretary 
to Lord Stamfordham. 

(5) Cabinet documents, minutes and memoranda. 

(6) Reports sent to the King daily when the House of Commons 
was in session by the Prime Minister or Leader of the House. Those 
reports deal with the general feeling of the House, the effect of indi- 
vidual speeches, and the personality of old or young politicians. They 
were of great value to the King as giving him information and .sug- 
gestions that were not to be found in Hansard. These daily leports \\ere 
in fact written by one of the junior Whips and are vivacious, and even 
jocose, in style. They were of course revised and signed by the Prime 
Minister or Leader of the House before being sent oIF in the Palace. 
This curious custom was abandoned after July, ir^ti by command of 
King Edward VIII. 

The note references in the text are of two sorts. Numerals ,1,^3, 
etc.) indicate substantive notes which will be found at the bottom of 
the page. The small letters (a, b, c, J, etc.) indicate sources, a full list 
of which will be found at the end of the book in Appendix III. The 
latter are intended for students only, and I apologize to the ordinary 
reader if their frequency and typographical ugliness cause irritation. 

The habit possessed by eminent Englishmen and Scotsmen of 
frequently altering their own names is one that may trouble the 
reader, especially the foreign reader. Mr A of one chapter becomes 
Sir Charles A. in the next; three chapters further on he emerges as 
Viscount B; and as we read further, he enters again, disguised as the 

Author's Note 

Earl of C. I have dealt harshly with this problem^ calling people by 
the names they possessed at the date of which I am writing. 

I have been fortunate in having known personally the political 
figures whom I describe. The survivors of that generation have 
been kind in recalling for me fond memories of the past, and even 
in checking passages in this book dealing with events with which they 
were directly concerned. I had intended to include a nominal list 
of all those to whom I felt myself under obligation. When, however, 
I saw the list in type, it appeared to me pretentious and indiscreet. 
I trust that all those eminent persons who gave me their time and 
attention will realize that it is certainly not owing to lack of gratitude 
that I have omitted my list of benefactors. 

Some names must, however, be mentioned. To Sir Alan Lascelles, 
the King's Private Secretary and Keeper of the Royal Archives, I am 
indebted for much friendly guidance; I am also obliged to his 
predecessors, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst and Lord Wigram. Miss 
Daisy Bigge, daughter of Lord Stamfordham, has been so kind as to 
allow me to use some letters from and to her father. Sir Owen 
Morshead, Librarian at Windsor Castle, has been at my side to 
advise, to encourage and to warn. To Miss Mary Mackenzie, Regis- 
trar of the King's Archives, and to her ever kindly staff, my debt is 
great. Her detailed knowledge, her gift for decyphering illegible 
handwritings, her patience, calm and unfailing encouragement, have 
sustained me through many a dark day, when the North East wind 
howled along the Thames valley and my light was low. My own 
secretary, Miss Elvira Niggeman, never abated for one instant the gay 
efficiency with which she copied documents that she knew I should 
never use, or typed draft Chapters which she knew would be frequently 
revised. And finally I am indebted to my publishers, Messrs Con- 
stable, and to the printers, Messrs Robert MacLehose, for the great 
trouble they have taken with the proofs and final production. 




For permission to use copyright material, the author wishes to 
express his gratitude to: 

Messrs Chatto & Windus for extracts from Dawson of Pern, by 
Francis Watson. 

Miss Sara Eakins Black and Messrs Hurst & Blackett Ltd for 
extract from Kings Nurse, Beggar's Nurse, by Sister Catherine Black. 

Messrs Cassell & Co. Ltd for extract from Politics from Inside, by 
Sir Austen Chamberlain. 

Messrs Macmillan & Co, Ltd for extract from Henry Ponsonby, by 
Lord Ponsonby. 

The Hon. Margaret Bigge and Messrs John Murray (Publishers) 
Ltd for a letter from Sir Arthur Bigge to the Master of Elibank, taken 
from Master and Brother, by Colonel the Hon. Arthur Murray. 

Messrs Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd and Messrs Rupert 
Crew Ltd, for two extracts from Memoirs, by the RtHon. J. R, Clynes. 



CHAPTER i: CHILDHOOD: 1865-1879 3 

Prince George born in London June 3, 1865 The problem 
of his name Queen Victoria's suggestions His mother 
His father Sandringham and Abergeldie Charles Fuller 
The Rev. John Dalton Early lessons Francis and 
Charlotte Knollys His grandmother, the Queen Sug- 
gestion that Prince Eddy should accompany him to the 
Britannia Queen Victoria's objections life in the Britannia 
Prince George leaves the Britannia, 1879. 


AUGUST, 1882 17 

The proposal that both Princes should go together on a 
cruise round the world the Cabinet object Queen 
Victoria resents their interference Doubts regarding the 
seaworthiness of the Bacchante Sir Henry Ponsonby's 
dilemma Summary of the cruise Lord Charles Scott's 
instructions the tattooing incident Queen Victoria's 
anxiety regarding their social contacts Prince George's 
homesickness The Bacchante diverted to the Cape the 
Queen's fear that the Princes may become involved in 
hostilities Majuba Cetywayo Prince George as a mid- 
shipman the Bacchante damaged in a gale She puts into 
King George's Sound the return journey Athens and the 
Greek Royal Family Back at home Confirmation of the 
two Princes. 

CHAPTER Hi: NAVAL OFFICER: 1882-1892 32 

Effect of naval training upon Prince George's character 
His concept of the duties of a seaman And of the duties of 
a Prince He goes to Lausanne he is separated from 
Prince Eddy and is appointed to the North American 
Squadron A course in gunnery Queen Victoria's admir- 
able advice Captain J. A. Fisher's eulogy The Medi- 
terranean Fleet Captain Stephenson At Malta He 
grows a beard His continued homesickness Miss Stonor 
At Athens again Death of the Emperor Frederick The 
Princess of Wales and the Emperor William II Torpedo 
Boat 79 a visit to Berlin H.M.S. Thrush The Duke of 
Clarence and Princess H614ne Queen Victoria is anxious 
for Prince George to marry The death of the Duke of 


The shock of his brother's death He is made Duke of York 
Learning German at Heidelberg He attends the Luther 



celebrations at Wittenberg He begins to take an interest in 
politics His engagement to Princess Mary of Teck His 
family's approval His marriage Sandringham and York 
Cottage The Duchess of York Birth of Prince Edward 
Birth of Prince Albert His life as a country gentleman 
He goes to Russia for the marriage of Nicholas II His visit 
to Ireland The South African War The end of the Nine- 
teenth Century The death of Queen Victoria. 

NOVEMBER, 1901 61 
Queen Victoria and Princess May Walter Bagchot's 
English Constitution The Duke of York becomes Duke of 
Cornwall Appointment of Sir Arthur Bigge as his Private 
Secretary The value to him of Sir Arthur Bigge 's guid- 
ance and friendship The proposed mission to Australia 
to open the first Commonwealth Parliament King 
Edward's objections Mr Balfour's letter His staff in the 
Ophir Their departure on March 16 The arrival in 
Melbourne The opening ceremony His letter to Mr 
Joseph Chamberlain Visits to New Zealand, South Africa, 
and Canada Return to England Effect upon him of this 
imperial journey The new conception of Empire His 
broadened outlook and increased self-confidence His 
Guildhall speech. 


Created Prince of Wales November 9, 1901 His projected 
visit to Berlin Failure of previous attempts to reach an 
understanding with Germany The Reichstag attacks on 
the British Army King Edward decides to cancel the pro- 
jected visit His letter to the German Emperor The visit is 
none the less arranged The Prince's conversation with 
Prince Billow The origins of the Entente with France 
End of the South African War The Coronation postponed 
owing to the King's illness The Prince's official duties 
His access to Government papers The Dogger Bank 
incident The Prince's visit to India and Burma Lord 
Curzon The Prince's impressions of India His Guildhall 

CHAPTER vii : TRANSITION: 1906-1910 90 

Mr A. J. Balfour and the problems of the Conservative 
Party The 1902 Education Act Chinese Labour Ireland 
and Mr George Wyndham Tariffs and Free Trade. Mr 
Balfour resigns and Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman 
becomes Prime Minister Composition of the new Liberal 
Government The General Election of 1906 Views of 
King Edward and the Prince of Wales The Prince on his 
return from India resumes his duties The wedding of 
King Alfonso and Princess Ena The Prince of Wales'* 
interest in questions of Home Defence His relations with 



King Edward His visits to Germany and Paris His 
mission to Canada Difficulties of the Liberal Government 
The Birrell Education Bill The Licensing Bill The 
Irish Councils Bill The Dreadnought controversy The 
situation abroad Germany's attempts to divide France 
and England Mr Lloyd George His 1909 Budget The 
conflict between the two Houses of Parliament The 
Parliament Bill Death of King Edward. 


Continuity of the British monarchical tradition The Royal 
House of Britain as the oldest of our political institutions 
Advantages and disadvantages of hereditary Monarchy 
The conflict between Crown and Parliament The evolu- 
tion of the conceptions of 'limited Monarchy' and 'respon- 
sible government' Ministers are now responsible for the 
King's public acts The Royal Prerogative Its employ- 
ment as a convenient instrument of administration Even 
in foreign and commonwealth affairs the King can perform 
no act except on the advice of Ministers Constitutionally 
he can dissolve Parliament, dismiss the Government and 
even refuse the Royal Assent to Bills In practical politics 
such powers would not be spontaneously exercised His 
only independent function is to choose a Prime Minister 
from among alternative candidates The contention that 
the circumstances with which King George was faced be- 
tween 1910 and 1914 were abnormal circumstances Is the 
King the 'guardian of the constitution'? Yet if the King 
possesses limited political power he possesses great political 
influence Definition of this influence The popularity of 
the Crown King George's personal contribution. 


King George's first Council The Prime Minister hurries 
back from Gibraltar The Accession proclaimed King 
Edward's funeral The Constitutional crisis Effect of the 
General Election of January, 1910 Mr Asquith's position 
His statements of December 10, February 2 1 and April 14 
King Edward's attitude to the problem The historical 
precedents The Conference between the Government and 
the Opposition Mr Lloyd George's desire for a Coalition 
Government The Conference breaks down Mr Asquith 
at York Cottage He asks for no guarantees On his return 
to London he changes his mind and demands immediate 
pledges Lord Knollys and the Master of Elibank The 
King refuses to give contingent guarantees The Cabinet 
minute of November 15 The King comes to London 
His conversation with Mr Asquith and Lord Crewe on 
November 16 He agrees to give the pledges The King 
resents the pledge being kept secret His feeling that his 
hand was forced. 




King George's interest in Home and Commonwealth affairs 
His recreations His domesticity The Mylius case 
The Coronation He visits Ireland, Scotland and Wales 
The investiture of the Prince of Wales The renewal of the 
conflict between Lords and Commons Mr Balfour's in- 
dignation Lord Lansdowne's proposals for the reform of 
the House of Lords The results of the General Election 
of December, 1910 The Parliament Bill again introduced 
Lord Lansdowne's amendment The November pledges 
are divulged The Lansdowne House meeting The Hals- 
bury Club -The Votes of Censure The final division of 
August 10 The King's satisfaction with the result. 

CHAPTER xi: UNREST: 1911-1912 159 

The King's desire for conciliation The growth of indus- 
trial disaffection Riots in South Wales Sidney Street 
The Railway Strike The Coal Strike The menace of 
syndicalism The reversal of the Taff Yale and Osborne 
judgments The National Insurance Act The King and 
the working classes The Protestant Declaration The be- 
ginning of the female suffrage movement Other indications 
of coming change The retirement of Mr A. J. Balfour 
from the leadership of the Unionist Party Mr Bonar Law 
The King proposes to visit India Lord Morlcy suggests 
difficulties The Cabinet give their grudging consent The 
question of the regalia The problem of boons- The Kini* 
and Queen leave for India on November n, ii>n The 
entry into Delhi The Durbar The reception at Calcutta 
Effect of the visit The King returns to Knglancl mi 
February 5, 1912. 

CHAPTER xn: AGADIR: 1911 177 

The year 1911 also important as marking a new phase in 
the relations between the Triple Alliance and the Triple 
Entente King George's approach to foreign affairs His 
contact with the Foreign Office and the Ambassadors in 
London The Revolution in Portugal The expansion of 
the German Navy Admiral von Tirpitz Kxnc; George 
and the German Emperor The latter conies to London 
for the unveiling of the Queen Victoria Memorial -He 
raises the Morocco question Conflicting versions of the 
conversation which then took place The Franco-German 
negotiations The French expedition to Fez The despatch 
of the Panther to Agadir Sir Edward Grey's warning * - 
The Germans maintain an ominous silence for seventeen 
days Mr Lloyd George's speech at the Mansion House 
The danger of war The Cambon-KJderlen negotiations 
satisfactorily concluded on November 4 Effect in Germany 
of this diplomatic defeat The Agadir crisis as a prelude 
to the 1914 war. 


CHAPTER xiii : TENSION: 1912 

The Italian seizure of Tripoli Discussions with Germany 
on naval armaments Sir Ernest Cassel The Haldane 
mission The German Navy Law of 1912 Our counter- 
measures The King resumes his accustomed routine His 
visit to the Fleet And to Aldershot His tours in South 
Wales and the West Riding The autumn manoeuvres 
First signs of the Irish Controversy The Home Rule Bill 
introduced into the House of Commons, April 1 i, 1912 Mr 
Asquith in Dublin The Blenheim rally The Ulster 
Covenant Suggestions that the King should refuse the 
Royal Assent Mr Bonar Law's proposals Disorder in the 
House of Commons The King complains to Mr Asquith 
that he is not kept sufficiently informed Sir Edward Grey 
and M. Sazonov at Balmoral The First Balkan War 
Prince Henry of Prussia at York Cottage. 

CHAPTER xiv: IRELAND: 1913 212 

Internal affairs during 1913 The Marconi enquiry 
Women's Suffrage External affairs The Balkan Wars 
and the Ambassadors' Conference Improvement of our 
relations with Germany The Portuguese Colonies and the 
Baghdad Railway The King's visit to Berlin The Ger- 
man Emperor and Lord Stamfordham The French Presi- 
dent visits London Mr Walter Hines Page The Govern- 
ment discourage the King from visiting the Dominions 
The Home Rule controversy The arming of Ulster The 
Irish National Volunteers Mr Birrell's early optimism 
The King is advised by some Unionists that he ought to 
intervene Mr Asquith's reticence The audience of 
August 1 1 The King's memorandum Mr Asquith's reply 
The King's letter to Mr Asquith of September 22 review- 
ing the whole situation. 


1914 233 

Mr Balfour's view of the Irish situation The King's con- 
versations at Balmoral His interview with the Prime 
Minister Mr Asquith holds two secret meetings with Mr 
Bonar Law A deadlock is reached The King tries to 
break the deadlock He raises with Mr Asquith the ques- 
tion of the Royal Assent His speech from the Throne 
Further efforts to secure a compromise The Prime 
Minister, in moving the second reading of the Home Rule 
Bill, offers the exclusion of Ulster The Curragh incident 
The Larne gun-running The Prime Minister considers 
the moment has arrived for the leaders of the parties to meet 
in Conference They are summoned to Buckingham Palace 
The Conference fails The Austrian ultimatum to Servia 
The King and Prince Henry of Prussia The Declaration 
of War. 




With the outbreak of war, the King is relieved of central 
responsibility The condition of public opinion in 1914 
The King's equable attitude The agitation regarding 
Garter banners and enemy Princes Prince Louis of 
Battenberg The King objects to the appointment of Lord 
Fisher as First Sea Lord Reviews and inspections Prince 
Albert and the Prince of Wales The King's concern with 
conscientious objectors and enemy prisoners The Royal 
Assent given to the Home Rule Bill The King and the 
N av y The retreat from Mons Lord Kitchener The 
Munitions shortage 'The King's Pledge' The 'Shell 
Scandal' The Dardanelles Resignation of Lord Fisher 
The First Coalition Government Lord Haldane. 



The misfortunes of 1915 Sir John French The King's 
accident in France Sir Douglas Haig becomes Commander 
in Chief The King's visits to munition factories The 
Military Service Bill The misfortunes of 1916 Air-raids 
The King's attitude towards reprisals Conscription be- 
comes inevitable Lloyd George and Bonar Law threaten 
to resign The King's influence is invoked Parliament 
accepts compulsory service The Easter rising in Dublin 
The King's relations with Sir Douglas Haig The King and 
the Navy The Battle of Jutland Sir David Beatty suc- 
vceeds Sir John Jellicoe Foreign Affairs The struggle 
between King Constantine and M. Venizelos. 


1916-1917 285 

Mr. Lloyd George dissatisfied with the conduct of the war 
Sir Edward Carson forms the nucleus of a Unionist opposi- 
tion Embarrassment caused thereby to Mr. Bonar Law 
Sir Max Aitken brings Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Edward 
Carson and Mr. Bonar Law together Mr. Asquith unable 
to accept Mr. Lloyd George's plan for a War Council under 
the latter's chairmanship Mr. Asquith resigns The King 
refuses Mr. Bonar Law's request for a Dissolution 
Buckingham Palace Conference Mr. Lloyd George forms 
his Cabinet The German Peace Note The King's advice 
to Mr. Lloyd George President Wilson's Note The King 
and Colonel House The United States at war with Ger- 
many The Russian Revolution The Tsar and his family 
are invited to England Disagreements between Mr. Lloyd 
George and the Generals The Calais Conference Sir 
Douglas Haig's letter to the King and his reply The col- 
lapse of the Nivelle plan. 


The effect of the Russian Revolution Attacks upon the 
Monarchy in Great Britain Lord Stamfordham's equable 


attitude The Royal House becomes the 'House of Wind- 
sor' The Irish Convention The attempts to induce 
Austria to make a separate peace Prince Sixte of Bourbon- 
Parma The Reichstag Resolution and the Pope's Peace 
Note Lord Lansdowne's letter The King's solicitude for 
our prisoners of war and his dislike of reprisals General 
Pershing arrives Mr. Lloyd George's appreciation of the 
war situation The Mesopotamia Report The King's 
defence of Lord Hardinge Renewed differences between 
Mr. Lloyd George and Sir William Robertson The King 
tries in vain to persuade the latter not to resign The 
Ludendorff offensive The King's last visit to the Front 
The beginning of the end The surrender of Bulgaria The 
collapse of Germany The armistice. 

CHAPTER xx: RECONSTRUCTION: 1918-1921 326 

Armistice celebrations The King's address to Parliament 
He visits the battlefields President Wilson in London 
Mr. Lloyd George asks for a dissolution The King agrees 
with reluctance The 'coupon election 5 The King asks 
Mr. Lloyd George to take Mr. Asquith to the Peace Con- 
ference The Unionist majority The King and the Peace 
Conference Austria Rumania The signature of the 
Treaty of Versailles The German Princes petition the 
King against the trial of the German ex-Emperor The 
King resumes his old routine Demobilisation Industrial 
unrest The end of the post-war boom The Coal Strike 
The Railwaymen and Transport Workers The King's 
concern for the unemployed His desire to promote con- 
cord His disapproval of controversial war memoirs 
The Two Minutes Silence The burial of the unknown 


The advance of Sinn Fein Conscription extended to Ire- 
land Measures of repression Sinn Fein win the General 
Election and proclaim an Irish Republic The Black and 
Tans The King protests against reprisals The Northcliffe 
interview The Home Rule Act of December 1920 The 
King opens the Parliament of Northern Ireland Effect 
of the King's speech The King urges the Prime Minister 
to enter into immediate negotiations Mr. Lloyd George's 
first approach to Mr. De Valera General Smuts' visit 
to Dublin Mr. De Valera comes to London The Govern- 
ment offer Ireland Dominion Status The offer rejected 
The King persuades the Prime Minister to send a 
conciliatory reply The invitation of September 7 Mr. 
De Valera accepts the invitation The London Conference 
Heads of Agreement signed on December 6, 1921 
The Irish Treaty ratified The King's satisfaction at this 





The Prince of Wales' visits to the Dominions and India 
The King's relations with his children The decline in the 
prestige of Mr. Lloyd George The Cannes Confercnce-^- 
The Genoa Conference The Chanak crisis The Carlton 
Club Meeting Mr. Bonar Law succeeds Mr. Lloyd George 
as Prime Minister The King and the Greek Royal Family 
Our relations with France and Italy The King's visit to 
Rome The Lausanne Conference The King on the 
Sudan Mr. Bonar Law's illness and resignation The 
King sends for Mr. Baldwin Lord Curzon's disappoint- 
ment Mr. Baldwin's first administration He asks for a 
dissolution The King seeks to dissuade him The resultant 


1924 382 

Mr Baldwin's desire to resign immediately The King urges 
him first to meet the new House of Commons Various sug- 
gestions for new groupings The King makes it clear that if 
Mr Baldwin is defeated he will send for Mr Ramsay Mac- 
donald and offer him the post of Prime Minister uncondi- 
tionally Mr Baldwin is defeated and Mr Ramsay Mac- 
Donald is sent for on January 22,1 924 The King's attitude 
towards his first Labour Government The Prime Minister 
also becomes Foreign Secretary The King interviews all 
the Labour Ministers The problem of the Royal Household 
The problem of Court Dress The internal policy of the 
new Government Their relations with their National 
Executive Foreign Policy Mr MacDonald re-establishes 
co-operation with France and Italy M. Herriot succeeds 
M. Poincar6 The London Conference and Agreement 
The Geneva Protocol The recognition of the Soviet Gov- 
ernment and the ensuing negotiations The summer recess 
The Campbell case Defeat of the Labour Government 
Mr MacDonald asks for a dissolution The Zinoviev 
letter The General Election Resignation of Mr Mac- 
Donald Mr Baldwin forms a new administration. 


1926 404 

Mr Baldwin leaves the conduct of Foreign Policy to the 
Foreign Office Mr Austen Chamberlain's ideas and policy 
Fate of the Geneva Protocol The idea of a Security Pact 
Lord D'Abernon's letters to the King Herr von Schu- 
bert's memorandum Negotiations and signature of the 
Locarno Treaties Death of Queen Alexandra Germany's 
membership of the League Council Spain's objections 
The King writes to King Alfonso Mr Baldwin's modera- 
tion in home politics Mr Churchill returns to the gold 
standard The King's Mediterranean cruise The Coal 
crisis Mr A. J. Cook Mr Baldwin surrenders and 


promises a subsidy Sir Herbert Samuel as chairman of the 
Royal Commission The subsidy to be discontinued Mr 
Cook forces the T.U.C. to support the miners The General 
Strike of May 4-May 12, 1926 The King's anxiety He 
preaches moderation He is opposed to any provocative 
legislation Sir Herbert Samuel intervenes The T.U.C. 
abandon the miners and call off the General Strike The 
King's Message to his people The Coal Strike continues 
The King sees no objection to the Russian Trades Unions 
providing relief Mr Churchill's action The Coal strike 
ends on November 1 1, i 926. 


A period of calm follows on the Locarno Treaties and the 
General Strike Domestic Legislation The Trades Dis- 
putes Act The Prayer Book controversy The King re- 
sumes the regularity of his life The visits of foreign 
potentates The King's indignation at criticism in the 
House of Commons of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of 
York to Australia Is the King entitled to comment on what 
passes in Parliament? The King's constant desire to main- 
tain the standards of public life First symptoms of the 
King's illness An operation performed on December 12 
The move to Bognor The King leaves Bognor for Windsor 
His relapse Return to London The Thanksgiving 
Service followed by a second operation Slow convalescence 
The General Election of May 1929 Mr Baldwin resigns 
Mr Ramsay MacDonald forms the Second Labour 


Mr MacDonald hampered by his minority position He 
passes a Coal Bill but fails with his Trades Union Bill, Educa- 
tion Bill and Electoral Reform Bill His visit to the United 
States The Rapidan conversations Anglo-American 
naval parity The London Naval Conference Mr Snow- 
den at the Hague- Mr Henderson resumes diplomatic 
relations with Russia The King receives a Russian Am- 
bassador Anglo-Egyptian negotiations The resignation 
of Lord Lloyd The problem of unemployment Mr J. H. 
Thomas and Sir Oswald Mosley The Llandudno Confer- 
ence Committee Room 14 Economic condition of Europe 
Sir Arthur Balfour's grim paper The Credit Anstalt col- 
lapses Financial panic in Vienna and Berlin The Seven 
Power Conference The crisis shifts to London The pro- 
blem becomes political The King's health His personal 
bereavements and troubles during 1931 The death of Lord 


The May Report The Economic Committee of the Cabinet 
known as the 'Big Five' Mr MacDonald returns to London 



The Big Five recommend stringent economies, including 
a cut in unemployment relief The Cabinet approve these 
recommendations, except as regards Transitional Benefit 
The Prime Minister meets the T.U.C. They refuse to con- 
sent to any reduction in the dole or in the pay and salaries 
of die lower income groups Mr MacDonald angered by 
the interference of the T.U.C, The Cabinet change their 
attitude and scale down the economies to which they had 
previously agreed The 'enquiry 9 addressed to the bankers 
of New York The King leaves Balmoral for London He 
consults Sir Herbert Samuel and Mr Baldwin Sir Herbert 
Samuel's advice Mr Baldwin agrees to serve under Mr 
MacDonald The Cabinet await the reply from the New 
York Bankers The telegram arrives It shocks some 
Labour Ministers The Kong appeals to Mr MacDonald 
not to resign The Buckingham Palace Conference Mr 
MacDonald consents to form a National Government The 
scene in Downing Street Mr MacDonald resigns as Labour 
Prime Minister and then kisses hands as Prime Minister in a 
National Government. 


1931 470 

The 'colonial* theory of Empire The Dominions achieve 
autonomy The Balfour Formula adopted by the 1926 Con- 
ference The 1930 Conference and the resultant Statute of 
Westminster The seven Vestiges of subordination' Five 
of these abolished by the Statute The King's close interest 
in Commonwealth affairs and his regret at the loosening of 
former ties The exercise of the Royal Prerogative in the 
Dominions Two examples of difficulty The case of Lord 
Byng of Vimy The case of Mr Scullin Recommendations 
made by the 1930 Conference as a result of these two con- 
troversies Problem of the Royal Title Problem of the co- 
ordination of foreign policy The loose ends left over by the 
Statute of Westminster Is the Monarchy divisible? Two 
South African Bills raise this question in a difficult form 
How can Dominion Ministers furnish His Majesty with 
'advice'? The latter problem remained unsolved during 
King George's reign. 


r 935 489 

The Invergordon incident A further run on gold The 
National Government forced to suspend the Gold Standard 
The Conservatives want an Election but the Liberals do 
not Shall there be a common Manifesto? The King 
returns to London His interview with Sir Herbert Samuel 
The Prime Minister's pessimism The King's encourage- 
ment A formula found The General Election of October 
2 7* I 93 I Mr MacDonald's difficulty in distributing posts 
among the three Parties Sir Austen Chamberlain's self- 


sacrifice The Agreement to differ' The Ottawa Confer- 
ence Resignation of Lord Snowden and Sir Herbert 
Samuel Mr Ramsay MacDonald's isolation The King's 
sympathy Foreign situation Russia Manchukuo Dis- 
armament The World Economic Conference The Ameri- 
can Debt President Roosevelt and the King The Indian 
problem Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Amritsar Ap- 
pointment of Lord Irwin The Simon Commission The 
King's influence invoked The Simon Report The Round 
Table Conference Lord Irwin and Mr Gandhi The Gov- 
ernment of India Act 1935. 

CHAPTER xxx: JUBILEE: 1935 5io 

Honours and distinctions The Prime Minister responsible 
for all recommendations The Dunedin Commission and 
the 1925 Honours Act The King's way of life in London 
and Sandringham Changes that had occurred since 1910 
The approach of old age The King and his Ministers 
The Foreign situation Herr Hitler establishes his despot- 
ism Sir John Simon's visit to Berlin Anxiety caused by 
the failure of these Conversations The Silver Jubilee The 
King's popularity His broadcasts The sunset of the 
League of Nations The Abyssinian crisis The Hoare- 
Laval agreement The King's failing health He spends 
his last Christmas at Sandringham His final illness He 
dies on January 20, 1936. 


between pages 532 and 533 



INDEX 541 



KING GEORGE v frontispiece 














HEIRS 302 






SANDRINGHAM, 1934 512 



(The photographs facing pages 18 and 32 are taken from Queen 
Victoria's albums at Windsor. That of Lord Stamfordham facing 
page 224 has been provided by his daughter. Miss Margaret Bigge. 
All the other photographs come from Queen Mary 's private albums 
and are published by gracious permission) 



His Life and Reign 




Prince George born in London June 3, 1865 The problem of his name 
Queen Victoria's suggestions His mother His father Sandring- 
ham and Abergeldie Charles Fuller The Rev. John Dalton 
Early lessons Francis and Charlotte KnoUys His grandmother, 
the Queen Suggestion that Prince Eddy should accompany him to 
the Britannia Queen Victoria's objections Life in the Britannia 
Prince George leaves the Britannia July 1879. 

PRINCE GEORGE was born at Marlborough House, London, at 
1.30 a.m. on the morning of June 3, 1865. He was the second son of 
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (subsequently King Edward VII) 
and of Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX, King of Denmark. 1 

At 3.30 a.m. on that morning of June 3, Queen Victoria was 
awakened at Windsor Castle by two telegrams from the Prince of 
Wales announcing the birth of a second son. The customary dis- 
cussion arose as to the names by which the boy should be known. 
The Prince had suggested that he should be christened George 

1 King Christian IX (1818-1906) was a younger son of William, Duke 
of Schlesswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. In 1842 he married 
Louise, daughter of William, Landgraf of Hesse-Cassel, whose mother 
was next-of-kin to King Frederick VII of Denmark. When it became clear 
that King Frederick would remain childless, the representatives of the 
Great Powers met in London and, by the Protocol of May 1852, designated 
Prince Christian as King Frederick's heir. On the latter's death, in 
November 1863, he ascended the throne of Denmark as King Christian 

His eldest son succeeded M. in 1906 as King Frederick VIII (1843- 
1912). His second son, William (1845-1913), became King of the Hellenes 
in 1863. His eldest daughter, Alexandra (1844-1925), became Queen of 
England. His second daughter, Dagmar, became Empress of Russia. His 
third daughter, Thyra, became Duchess of Cumberland. 

He and Queen Louise figure in the royal correspondence as 'Apapa* 
and 'Amama*. 


Christening 1865 

*As to the names of the young gentleman/ he wrote to Queen 
Victoria on June 1 1, 1865, 'we had both for some time settled that, if 
we had another boy, he should be called George, as we like the name and 
it is an English one. 9 'I fear/ the Queen replied on June 13, 'I cannot 
admire the names you propose to give the Baby. I had hoped for some 
fine old name. Frederick is, however, the best of the two, and I hope 
you will call him so. George only came in with the Hanoverian family. 

'However, if the dear child grows up good and wise, I shall not 
mind what his name is. Of course you will add Albert at the end, like 
your brothers, as you know we settled long ago that all dearest Papa's 
male descendants should bear that name, to mark our line, just as I wish 
all the girls to have Victoria after theirs. 

*I lay great stress on this; and it is done in a great many families.' 

c We are sorry', the Prince of Wales replied to the Queen on June 
1 6, *to hear that you don't like the names that we propose to give our 
little boy, but they are names that we like and have decided on for 
some time. 9 

The christening took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on 
July 7. Among the sponsors were the King of Hanover, the Queen 
of Denmark, Princess Alice of Hesse, the Duchess of Cambridge and 
the Prince of Leiningen. Lords Palmerston and Granville were 
present as Ministers in attendance. The baptism was administered 
by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishops of London, 
Oxford and Worcester. The programme of the ceremony has been 
preserved : the central passage runs as follows : 

'When the Archbishop of Canterbury commences the prayer Almighty 
and Ever Living God, the Countess of Macclesfield will place the Infant 
Prince in the arms of the Queen, who will hand His Royal Highness to 
the Archbishop and receive the Prince from His Grace when His Royal 
Highness has been baptised. 9 

He was in this manner christened George Frederick Ernest Albert. 
But to his family thereafter he was always known as 'Georgy' or 


His mother, Alexandra Princess of Wales, was a woman of 
intense, and even exclusive, family affections. Her own childhood 
had been spent in surroundings of extreme simplicity, whether in the 
little yellow palace at Copenhagen or in the beloved country home 
at BernstorfF. She and her sisters would do their own sewing and 
assist in the household chores. When in 1863, at the age of nineteen, 
she came to England as the bride of Queen Victoria's heir 
acclaimed by the Poet Laureate as 'Sea-King's daughter from over 

1865-1870 His Mother and Father 

the Sea' she immediately captured, and for ever retained, the 
affections of the British people by her unfading loveliness and 
charm. Essentially she was a simple woman. Apart from her liking 
for music, she possessed few intellectual or aesthetic tastes. Warm- 
hearted and generous, retaining throughout her life the spontaneous 
gaiety of her girlhood, impulsive, unpunctual, unmethodical and 
absurdly lavish, she controlled her natural high spirits with innate 
dignity and instinctive tact. She preserved unclouded the candid 
Protestant beliefs in which she had been nurtured. The troubles of 
her married life (troubles which never lastingly disturbed the affec- 
tion which existed between herself and her husband) and the 
hereditary deafness which afflicted her after her illness of 1867, con- 
firmed her natural tendency to confine her emotional experience 
within a narrow domestic circle. Her devotion to her own family was 
passionate and possessive; like so many adoring mothers, she failed 
sometimes to realise that her children might one day cease to be 
children and might acquire interests, belongings and affections of 
their own. 

Throughout Prince George's childhood and early boyhood the 
influence of his mother was predominant. She would read the Bible 
aloud to him and it was from her that he acquired the habit, which 
he never relinquished, of reading a passage from the Scriptures every 
day. He would sit and talk to her while her long tresses were being 
brushed in the morning; at night she would tuck him up in bed and 
receive the confidences which children will then liberate. To him she 
was always c darling Motherdear*. His homesickness, when parted 
from her, was acute. 

The affection which he felt for his father was tempered by whole- 
some awe. The fear of arousing his father's displeasure remained 
with him in adult life. Yet in the later years, when King Edward had 
come to take an overt pride in his son's reliability, their relationship 
became one of mutual confidence. Prince George's boyhood feelings 
of dutiful affection merged into adult loyalty and trust. King Edward 
was always insisting that his son should regard him as an elder 
brother; they held no secrets from each other; seldom has so frank 
and staunch a bond been forged between a Sovereign and his heir. 

Prince George's childhood was boisterously Chappy. For most of 
the time the children remained at Sandringham, with occasional 
visits to London, Osborne and Abergeldie. 1 Their first nurse was a 

1 Prince George had two brothers and three sisters. His elder brother, 
Prince Albert Victor (generally known as 'Prince Eddy') was born at 


Mr Dalton 1865-1871 

Mrs Blackburn, generally referred to as 'Mary'. She was succeeded 
by a nursery governess of the name of Miss Brown. When Prince 
Eddy was no more than a fortnight old, a 'nursery footman' of the 
name of Charles Fuller was engaged as his personal attendant. 
Fuller was devoted to the two Princes and especially to Prince 
George. He served them throughout their boyhood, he went with 
them on their cruise round the world, he was with Prince Eddy at 
Cambridge. For many years he remained one of Prince George's 
most constant correspondents. There are letters from Fuller urging 
the Prince not to forget, if the weather appeared changeable, the 
warm waistcoat with the long sleeves; letters begging him not to 
smoke too much, since it would stunt his growth; a typical letter 
from Sandringham, dated June 20, 1883: 

'It is just a week since you left us and you cannot think how much 
I miss your dear face, the place don't look the same.' 

My dear excellent Fuller', as Prince George called him, died of 
heart failure in 1901 . 


When Prince Eddy had reached the age of seven, and Prince 
George was verging upon six, it was decided that their regular 
education must begin. The Prince of Wales was determined that his 
two sons should not be subjected to the congested cramming From 
which he had himself suffered under the discipline inspired by 
Baron Stockmar. The tutor selected was the Reverend John Neale 
Dalton, then a young man of thirty-two and curate to Canon Pro- 
thero, rector of Whippingham near Osborne. 

Mr Dalton had obtained at Cambridge a first class in theology. 
He was a man of character, precision and tenacity. Although his 

Frogxnore on January 8, 1864, was created Duke of Clarence and Avon- 
dale in May 1890, and died at Sandringham on January 14, 1892. 

A younger brother, christened Alexander John, was born in 1871 
and lived only a few hours. 

His eldest sister, Princess Louise, was born in 1867, married the Duke 
of Fife in 1899, Was declared Princess Royal in 1905, and died in 1931. 

His second sister, Princess Victoria, was born in 1868 and died un- 
married in December 1935. 

His third sister, Princess Maud, was born in 1869, married Prince 
Charles of Denmark (subsequently King Haakon VII of Norway) in 1896, 
and died in 1938. 

Tables showing Prince George's immediate relations will be found in 
Appendixes I and II. 

1876 Early tuition 

letters to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales were extremely 
deferential, he seldom hesitated, from fear of causing irritation or 
provoking disapproval, to advise and to act in what he considered 
the best interests of his two pupils or in accordance with his own high 
sense of responsibility and duty. He disapproved of the lavish 
extravagance of Sandringham and Marlborough House. He would 
protest in outspoken terms against the many distractions with which 
the Prince and Princess of Wales were tempted to spoil their children. 
He would point out the harm which was being done to the rhythm 
of their education by the frequent and too elaborate journeyings and 
displacements in which their restless parents were apt to indulge. 
He possessed a resonant voice and much enjoyed listening to it; his 
handwriting was neat and scholarly; his passion for tidiness and 
order left an indelible impression upon Prince George's habits of 
thought and life. He remained tutor to one or other of the two 
Princes for fourteen years. Prince George's affectionate nature 
responded warmly to the devotion of this faithful man. Mr Dalton 
remained his intimate friend and counsellor until he died as Canon 
of Windsor in 1931 when over ninety years of age. 

The time-table which Mr Dalton imposed upon his two pupils 
during those early years at Sandringham has been preserved. They 
would rise at seven and prepare their Geography and English before 
breakfast. At eight came a Bible or History lesson, followed by 
Algebra or Euclid at nine. There then ensued an hour's break for 
games and thereafter a French or Latin lesson until the main meal, 
which took place at two. The afternoon was occupied by riding or 
playing cricket and after tea would come English lessons, music, and 
preparation. The two Princes were put to bed at eight. a 

In order to keep track of the daily progress of his pupils, Mr Dal- 
ton caused to be printed two large albums, similar to cellar books, 
in which he recorded their proficiency in the several subjects of the 
curriculum, adding each Saturday some general remarks on conduct 
during the week. The album entitled Journal of Weekly Work, Prince 
George, which is still preserved in the Round Tower at Windsor, 
bears many astringent comments in Mr Dalton's handwriting. The 
following extracts, covering the autumn and winter of the year 1876 
may be quoted: 

Week ending September 2, 1876. 'Prince G. this week has been 
much troubled by silly fretfulness of temper and general spirit of con- 
tradiction. Otherwise work with me has been up to the usual average.' 
September 23. 'Prince George has been good this week. He shows 


His affection for Mr Dalton 1876 

however too much disposition to find fault with his brother. 9 October 
14. Too fretful; and inclined to be lazy and silly this week. 9 November 
25. 'Self-approbation enormously strong, becoming almost the only 
motive power in Prince George. 9 December 9. The slightest difficulty 
discourages him and when he frets he finds it hard to subdue himself.' 
December 30. Trince George wants application, steady application. 
Though he is not deficient in a wish to progress, still his sense of self- 
approbation is almost the only motive power in him. He has not nearly 
so high a sense of right and wrong for its own sake as his elder brother.' 

It would be a mistake to assume from such extracts that Mr 
Dalton was a cantankerous pedagogue. He certainly instilled into 
Prince George the unwavering sense of duty which thereafter be- 
came the mainspring of his character. At the same time he felt and 
inspired durable affection. It is illuminating to re-read the many 
letters which Mr Dalton addressed to his beloved pupil over a space 
of almost sixty years. Here is a letter written to Prince George when 
he was in H.M.S. Canada on the North American station and when 
Mr Dalton, in the company of other tutors, was coaching Prince 
Eddy at Sandringham. It is dated July 1 1, 1883: 

'I do long to be at sea with you again; it is frightfully dull here. I 
never felt so dull in my life. I shall be glad when our time is up. We 
miss your voice so at meals: they all sit round the table and eat and 
never say a syllable. I never knew such a lot. . . . Oh dear! How often 
my thoughts go off to you and I wish I could be, if even for a few 
months, with you. 9 

Thirty-five years passed, and here we have another letter written 
on the occasion of his pupil's silver wedding: 

* Windsor. July 5 1918. 

'Canon Dalton presents his humble duty to the King. . . . He has now 
had the exceptional privilege of witnessing for six and forty years, with 
a loyal and personal affection that has known no break or weakening, 
the development of a boyhood, youth and manhood, that has each, 
under God's guardianship and blessing, more than fulfilled the ever- 
cherished promise of earlier days. 9 

Mr Dalton's precise and conscientious tutelage was not the only 
instruction which the Princes at this period obtained. There was a 
French teacher of the name of M. Mariette, and a drawing master, 
Mr Weigall. c We have just had a drawing lesson, 9 wrote Prince 
George to Queen Victoria on May 24, 1876, 'and I drew an elephant 
for Papa and Eddy drew a tiger. 9 When they were at Marlborough 
House a drill sergeant used to attend regularly and there were also 
gymnastic and fencing instructors. In the mornings, the young 

1876 Francis Knollys 

Princes were subjected to the severe training of the riding school at 
Knightsbridge Barracks. In addition they took dancing lessons with 
their sisters and were coached in tennis, croquet and football. At a 
very early age Prince George at Sandringham was taught to shoot. 

Mr Dalton was worried none the less by the confined domestic 
atmosphere in which they passed their days. Apart from their 
parents and their sisters, apart from the company of tutors, gover- 
nesses, gamekeepers and servants, they had few contacts which would 
fit them for the outside world. They did not, at that stage, see much 
of their father's many friends who came to Sandringham, or consort 
intimately with the equerries and members of the household. There 
were Francis Knollys, private secretary to the Prince of Wales (who 
in the early days would sign his letters to them 'your sincere friend, 
Fookes 5 ) and his sister, Miss Charlotte Knollys, Bedchamber woman 
and life-long companion to the Princess. 1 Apart from them they 
knew scarcely anyone outside the immediate family.tircle. 

Behind all this behind the games with his brother and sisters, 
behind the sweet indulgence of his mother and his father's often 
alarming chaff loomed the tremendous figure of his grandmother, 
the Qjieen. 

The biographer, when introducing Queen Victoria into his 
narrative, folds himself at an irritating disadvantage. However 
seriously he may admire the massive weight of her experience, the 
probity of her character, the vigour of her mind and will, or the 
shrewdness (the often humorous shrewdness) of her understanding, 
he is conscious that the legend of this great woman has been dis- 
torted in the minds of modern readers by ironical presentations. The 
singularity of her character, the idiosyncrasies of her style, provoke 
amusement when amusement is not intended. To approach Qjieen 
Victoria in a mood of merriment is to ignore the seriousness of sixty 

1 Francis and Charlotte Knollys were the children of General Sir 
William Knollys, who had been attached to the Prince Consort to instruct 
him in his military duties and who, on the death of General Bruce in 1862, 
was chosen by Queen Victoria as Governor to her eldest son. 

When in 1870 Mr. Fisher, Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, 
resigned his appointment, the post was given to Sir William's second son 
Francis, then a man of thirty-three. 

Sir Francis Knollys remained Private Secretary for forty-three years. 
After King Edward's death he acted as joint Private Secretary to King 
.George until 1913. He was made a Baron in 1902 and a Viscount in 191 1. 
He died in 1924 at the age of eighty-seven. 


Queen Victoria 

To the two Princes, the Queen was primarily a devoted grand- 
mother, for whom they felt unawed affection and whose solicitude 
and kindness provided them with much excitement and constant fun. 
It was more rarely that they regarded her as the insistent matriarch, 
whose approval or disapproval conditioned their movements and 
entailed precautions. 

Yet even as a child Prince George must have noticed that in her 
presence those whom he himself feared or venerated became awe- 
struck and diminished. The contrast between her personal homeliness 
and the majesty by which she was encompassed led him insensibly to 
look upon die Monarchy as something distinct from ordinary life, as 
something more ancient and durable than any political or family 
institution, as something sacramental, mystic and ordained. 

From time to time he would be taken to see her, at Windsor, 
Balmoral or Osborne. His gay laughter and his garrulous questions 
would be hushed for a moment in those silent corridors and he would 
be greeted by the shy little titter with which she sought to conceal her 
embarrassment in the presence of children. She would send him 
presents on his birthdays accompanied by letters of shrewd advice: 

On June i, 1873, she sent him a watch, 'hoping that it will serve to 
remind you to be very punctual in everything and very exact in all 

your duties I hope you will be a good, obedient, truthful boy, kind 

to all, humble-minded, dutiful and always trying to be of use to others! 
Above all, God-fearing and striving always to do His Will. 9 

He would acknowledge these gifts in dutiful letters, in which the 
spelling had been carefully corrected and of which the handwriting 
was clear and straight and boyish. His spelling continued to be 
uncertain for many years: his handwriting remained clear and 
straight and boyish all his life: 

'Sandringham. Easter Monday April 17 1876. 
'My dear Grandmama, 

C I hope you are enjoying yourself very much in Germany as we are 
all doing here. I hope you found Aunt Alice and Uncle Louis and the 
cousins quite well at Darmstadt. I hope Aunt Vicky was quite well. 
Please thank Aunt Beatrice very much for that nice chocolate egg she 
sent me yesterday. Mama gave us, some very pretty Easter eggs with 
lots of nice little things inside them, and ones which we had to find to 
the sound of music played loud when we were near and soft when we 
were far off. We went this morning to the farm to see some Brahmin 
cows which dear Papa sent home from India and we fed them with 
biscuits and then we went to the dairy and saw some little pats of butter 
made. I hope you had better weather in Germany than we have had 
here, we have had a great deal of snow, but it has gone away now. 

1877 The Navy 

'With love to you and Aunt Beatrice, I remain your affectionate 


His earlier letters to his grandmother, regular and dutiful though 
they were, replete though they were with punctilious enquiries 
regarding the health of his uncles, aunts and cousins and with precise 
references to the state of the weather, were not always so con- 
ventional. He and his sisters had acquired sheets of note paper on the 
top left-hand corner of which were painted small comic emblems. 
For a letter to Queen Victoria, dated December 28, 1877, thanking 
her for a Christmas present of spoons, he chose an emblem repre- 
senting a toad sheltering from the rain under a toad-stool with the 
motto 'No place like home 5 . As the years passed, his letters to his 
grandmother became more appropriate and impersonal. Before she 
died, she came fully to appreciate his straightness and sense of duty. 
'Georgie is here/ she wrote to the Duke of Connaught on June 13, 
1894, 'and quite well I am thankful to say. He is a dear boy, so 
anxious to do right and to improve himself.* 

He was certainly a solace to her in the declining years. 


It had always been intended that Prince George, being the 
second son, should adopt the Navy as his profession. It should be 
borne in mindi that it was not until he reached his twenty-seventh 
year that, with the death of his elder brother in January 1892, he 
came into the immediate line of succession. By that date, the fifteen 
years which he had spent as a serving officer in the Navy 1 had 
crystallised his habits and his outlook on life. 

When the moment came, early in 1877, to consider his entry into 
the naval training ship, the Britannia, Mr Dalton was assailed by 
qualms. His first difficulty was that neither of the two Princes, in his 
judgement, had reached the educational standard of the average 

1 Prince George's career as a naval officer can be summarised as 

Passed examination for entry June 5, 1877 

Naval Cadet 1877-1880 

Midshipman Jan. 8, 1880 

Sub-Lieutenant June 3, 1 884 

Lieutenant Oct. 8, 1885 

Commander Aug. 24, 1891 

Captain Jan. 2, 1893 

Rear-Admiral Jan. i, 1901 


Prince Eddy 

private school boy of their age. His apprehensions on this score were 
unnecessary. Prince George at least passed the entrance examination 
without difficulty and in the normal way. 

Mr Dalton's second anxiety was concerned with Prince Eddy, 
to whom, in his correspondence with Queen Victoria, he tactfully 
referred as Trince Albert Victor 9 . He feared that the elder Prince 
was not sufficiently advanced to be separated without damage from 
his younger brother. He was aware that the Queen desired Prince 
Eddy to be sent to Wellington College, an institution in which the 
Prince Consort had taken a special interest. Mr Dalton approached 
this situation with tenacious tact. 

In a memorandum, dated February n, 1877, he stressed the 
disadvantage of educating two boys of their age entirely in the 
domestic circle and without any contact with boys older than them- 
selves. Especially was this true of Princes in their position, who were 
exposed to the c quite natural excitement' continually caused by 
change of residence and surroundings. This had in itself rendered it 
impossible 'to obtain any really satisfactory result 9 . The difficulty of 
sending Prince Albert Victor to a public school, such as Wellington 
College, was not merely that headmasters were disinclined to make 
any special arrangements for his reception, but that it would be most 
unfortunate at this stage of his development to separate him from his 
younger brother. Trince Albert Victor*, wrote Mr Dalton, 'requires 
the stimulus of Prince George's company to induce him to work at 

Vice-Admiral June 26, 1903 

Admiral March i, 1907 

Admiral of the Fleet May 7, 1910 


H.M.S. Britannia 1877-1879 

H.M.S. Bacchante, Flying Squadron 1879-1882 
H.M.S. Canada, North America and West Indies 1 883-1 884 

H.M.S. Excellent, Portsmouth 1885 

H.M.S. Thunderer, Mediterranean Fleet 1886-1888 

H.M.S Dreadnought, Mediterranean Fleet 1886-1888 

H.M.S. Alexandra, Mediterranean Fleet 1886-1888 

H.M.S. Northumberland, Channel Fleet i { 

H.M. Torpedo Boat 79 i { 

H.M.S. Excellent, Portsmouth 1 890 
H.M.S. Thrush, North America and West Indies 1890-1891 

H.M.S. Melampus, Manoeuvres 1892 
H.M.S. Crescent 


Dalton and Queen Victoria 

all. ... The mutual influence of their characters on one another 
(totally different as they are in many ways) is very beneficial. . . . 
Difficult as the education of Prince Albert Victor is now, it would be 
doubly or trebly so if Prince George were to leave him. Prince 
George's lively presence is his mainstay and chief incentive to 
exertion; and to Prince George again, the presence of his elder 
brother is most wholesome as a check against that tendency to self- 
conceit which is apt at times to show itself in him. Away from his 
brother, there would be a great risk of his being made too much of 
and treated as a general favourite.' 

Mr Dalton urged therefore that Prince Albert Victor should 
accompany his younger brother to the Britannia, a course which 
would 'improve His Royal Highness* moral, mental and physical 
development'. It would provide him, so Mr Dalton affirmed, with 
"physical and mental tone' and would assist him to develop 'those 
habits of promptitude and method, of manliness and self-reliance, in 
which he is now somewhat deficient'. 

Qjieen Victoria's reply to this memorandum is dated February 15, 

'I have read', she wrote, 'with the greatest care and the greatest interest 
Mr. Dalton's very able and sensible memorandum on the education of 
my dear grandsons Albert Victor and George of Wales which in 
many ways resembles that of our own sons, especially the 2 eldest and 
reminds me forcibly of the many proposals and plans which were 
brought forward and discussed for them. 

These Children have, however, the advantage of not being the 
Sovereign's own Children and therefore not born and bred in a court, 
which, although we always brought up ours as simply as possible, still 
always has one great and unavoidable disadvantage. I myself was 
brought up almost as a private individual, in very restricted circum- 
stances, for which I have ever felt thankful. 

'I will now, however, return to the memorandum. I quite agree 
with the importance and necessity of sending the 2 Boys from Home 
for their education, for the very objections which exist in a much 
greater degree with them, existed with ours, viz, the constant moving 
from place to place the necessary excitement going on, which is 
greater than with us in some ways. Home influence and the Home 
affections should always be cultivated, but if they live with their tutor 
and are taught not to be ashamed of showing affection and tenderness 
for their Parents and Sisters and all the gentler and humanizing side of 
life, there will be no fear of their not retaining their love for Home. I 
therefore entirely agree in the plan of education being carried on at or 
near some public place of education.' 

The Qjieen did not, however, approve of the idea of Prince 


The Queen on their education 

Albert Victor, her eldest grandson, being entered simultaneously as a 
naval cadet in the Britannia : 

'Their positions,' she wrote, '(tf* they live) will be totally different and 
it is not intended that they should both enter the navy. . . . The very 
rough sort of life to which boys are exposed on board ship is the very 
thing not calculated to make a refined and amiable Prince, who in 
after years (if God spares him) is to ascend the throne. It would give 
him a very one-sided view of life which is not desirable. . . . Will a 
nautical education not engender and encourage national prejudices 
and make them think that their own Country is superior to any other? 
With the greatest love for and pride of one's own Country, a Prince, 
and especially one who is some day to be its Ruler, should not be im- 
bued with the prejudices and peculiarities of his own Country, as 
George III and William IV were. Baron Stockmar, than whom no one 
gave us better and wiser advice on the education of our Children, 
always dwelt strongly on this. And History bears this out. Our greatest 
King William III, and the next to him, though not a King, but almost 
the same as one from the influence he exercised and the advice he gave, 
the Prince Consort, were both foreigners and this gave them a freedom 
from all national prejudices which is very important in Princes.' 

Why, asked the Queen, could not both the boys live in some house 
in the vicinity of Wellington College, at least for a year and a half, 
and thus have all the advantages of attending a public school with 
none of the resultant dangers? 

C I have', she concluded, 'a great fear of young and carefully brought 
up Boys mixing with older Boys and indeed with any Boys in general, 
for the mischief done by bad boys and the things they may hear and 
learn from them cannot be overrated. Our experience on this point 
was certainly against it. ... Care should also be taken to prevent them 
merely from associating with sons of the Aristocracy; good boys, of 
whatever birth, should equally be allowed to associate with them to 
prevent the early notions of pride and superiority of position which is 
detrimental to young Princes, especially in these days, and which I 
know is so very repugnant to the Princess of Wales and also to the 
Prince's feelings and from which they are till now so entirely free.' 

In the end the Prince of Wales was able to persuade the Qiieen 
to agree to both Princes being sent to the Britannia c as an experiment'. 
Prince George therefore passed his examination for entry into the 
Navy on June 5, 1877. He joined the Britannia^ accompanied by 
Prince Eddy and Mr Dalton in September of that year. They re- 
mained in the Britannia for nearly two years. 

Apart from the fact that they had a cabin to themselves under 
the poop and that Mr Dalton was there to watch over them, the 
Princes were treated exactly as the other two hundred cadets. 

1877-1879 The 'Britannia' 

Prince George was proficient at mathematics; in boat sailing he 
excelled most of the cadets of his term. Yet the contrast between the 
cushioned and luxurious life to which he had been accustomed and 
the bare boards and stiff hammocks of the Britannia was sharp 

'It never', he recalled in after life, 'did me any good to be a Prince, 
I can tell you, and many was the time I wished I hadn't been. It was a 
pretty tough place and, so far from making any allowances for our 
disadvantages, the other boys made a point of taking it out of us on the 
grounds that they'd never be able to do it later on. There was a lot of 
fighting among the cadets and the rule was that if challenged you had 
to accept. So they used to make me go up and challenge the bigger 
boys I was awfully small then and I'd get a hiding time and again. 
But one day I was landed a blow on the nose which made my nose 
bleed badly. It was the best blow I ever took for the Doctor forbade my 
fighting any more. 

"Then we had a sort of tuck-shop on land, up the steep hill; only we 
weren't allowed to bring any eatables into the ship, and they used to 
search you as you came aboard. Well, the big boys used to fag me to 
bring them back a whole lot of stuff and I was always found out and 
got into trouble in addition to having the stuff confiscated. And the 
worst of it was, it was always my money; they never paid me back I 
suppose they thought there was plenty more where that came from, 
but in point of fact we were only given a shilling a week pocket money, 
so it meant a lot to me, I can tell you.' 6 

The holidays would be spent at his beloved Sandringham, with 
occasional visits to the Isle of Wight or Scotland. It was at Osborne 
that, on July 30, 1878, he first began to keep a diary, recording how 
that day he had played croquet with Aunt Beatrice and thereafter 
watched a cricket match between the household and the royal yacht. 
This first diary ended, as is the way with diaries, on August 12 the 
same year. But on May 3, 1880, Prince George again began to keep a 
diary and from then onward he continued it without intermission 
until three days before his death. 

For fifty-six years, in his clear handwriting, he recorded daily 
the moment at which he got up, the times of his meals, and the hour 
when he went to bed. He acquired the nautical habit of registering 
the direction of the wind, the condition of the barometer and the 
state of the weather throughout the day. He would take careful 
note of the places which he visited, the people whom he met, or the 
number of birds and other animals which he shot. Seldom did he 
indulge in any comment upon personal or public affairs; his diary 
is little more than a detailed catalogue of his engagements. He was 


His diary 1880 

not one of those to whom the physical act of writing comes easily 
and with pleasure; his pen would travel slowly across the page. 
Yet only when he was seriously ill would he allow his mother, his 
sisters, or, later, his wife, to make the entries for him. His diaries 
swelled to twenty-four bound and locked volumes, each opening 
with a small golden key. They became for him part of the discipline 
of his life. 

Prince George passed quite creditably out of the Britannia in 
July iSyg, 1 being then just fourteen years of age. After a few weeks' 
holiday he sailed with his brother round the world on a cruise, which 
lasted almost exactly three years. 

1 Captain Sir Bryan Godfrey-Faussett kept a bound book in which he 
entered the names and subsequent careers of the fifty cadets who formed 
Prince George's term in the Britannia. By October 1935 twenty-eight of 
these fifty had died; seven could no longer be traced; and fourteen sur- 

Of the original fifty, two reached the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, 
namely Lord Wester Wemyss and King George himself; three (Admiral 
Mark Kerr, Admiral Sir Cecil Lambert and Admiral Sir William Grant) 
became Admirals; six became Vice-Admirals; and four Rear- Admirals. 



September iSyg-August 1882 

The proposal that both Princes should go together on a cruise round the 
world the Cabinet object Queen Victoria resents their inter- 
ference Doubts regarding the seaworthiness of the Bacchante Sir 
Henry Ponsonby's dilemma Summary of the cruise Lord Charles 
Scott's instructions the tattooing incident Queen Victoria's 
anxiety regarding their social contacts Prince George's homesick- 
ness The Bacchante diverted to the Cape the Queen's fear that the 
Princes may become involved in hostilities Majuba Cetywayo 
Prince George as a midshipman the Bacchante damaged in a gale 
She puts into King George's Sound the return journey Athens and 
the Greek Royal Family Back at home Confirmation of the two 

WHEN in 1879 the time approached for the Princes to leave the 
Britannia, Mr Dalton was afflicted by misgivings similar to those which 
had disturbed him in 1877. Whereas Prince George's development, 
during the two years he had spent at Dartmouth, had been c rapid 
and pronounced' Prince Eddy had not been able as yet to overcome 
his constitutional lethargy. It had already been agreed that Prince 
George on leaving the Britannia should go to sea in a training vessel 
on an extended cruise round the world. Mr Dalton, in a letter of 
April 9, 1879, urged the Prince of Wales that Prince Eddy should 
accompany him on this voyage. If the elder boy were separated from 
his brother and sent to a public school, his backwardness might 
become more apparent. Moreover, whereas it would be possible care- 
fully to select the sub-lieutenants, the midshipmen and the cadets with 
whom he would consort in a naval training ship, it would be difficult 
at a public school to isolate him from all evil associations. Mr Dalton 
was aware that Prince Eddy was not suited to a naval career and 
that a long absence in a training ship might interrupt his general 
education. He proposed to get over this difficulty by attaching to 
the two Princes Mr John Lawless, an instructor in the Britannia^ 
who could teach them mathematics and navigation, and Assistant 
Paymaster G. F. Sceales, who had spent his youth in France and 

The Cabinet object 1879 

who could give them special and intensive tuition in the French 

This plan was eventually approved by the Queen and the Prince 
of Wales. The latter mentioned the idea to Mr W. H. Smith, the 
First Lord of the Admiralty, who, regarding it as hazardous to 
embark both Princes in the same vessel, raised the matter in Cabinet. 
The Prime Minister, at the request of his colleagues, telegraphed and 
wrote to the Queen urging her to veto the proposal: 

'Lord Beaconsfield', he wrote on May 19, 18795 c must repeat that 
the Cabinet was strongly of opinion that the departure of the two 
Princes in the same ship will greatly disquiet the public mind and that 
if anything happened to them Your Majesty's Government would 
justly be called to a severe account. He cannot adequately describe the 
feelings of Your Majesty's Ministers on this subject.' 

The Queen was angered by what she regarded as governmental 
intervention in a purely domestic arrangement: 

'I entirely approve', she replied on the same day, 'the plans for my 
grandsons' journey, which should never have been brought before the 
Cabinet. The Prince of Wales only mentioned it to Mr Smith and was 
with right extremely annoyed at his doing such a thing. It was never 
done when the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred went on long 
journeys together.' 

The Prime Minister surrendered at once with grace and ingenu- 

c Lord Beaconsfield with his humble duty to Your Majesty. 

'He most deeply apologizes for having, he fears, caused Your 
Majesty some unnecessary anxiety and trouble yesterday, respecting 
the cruise of the young Princes. 

c The fact is, it was brought under his notice at the end of a long and 
exhausting Cabinet. . . . Had the matter been originally brought before 
his notice he should, he hopes, have given it more thought and acted 
with more discretion. He takes the whole blame upon himself and 
trusts Your Majesty will not be angry with Mr. Smith, who is inexperi- 
enced, and ought to have been guided better by Lord Beaconsfield. 

'The matter ought never to have been brought before the Cabinet. 
Lord Beaconsfield will now withdraw the subject from the considera- 
tion of Ministers and as there are no records of the Cabinet Councils, 
he shall address a letter to the Lord Chancellor, taking the whole 
responsibility of the affair upon himself. 

6 It grieves him to trouble Your Majesty almost at the moment of 
Your Majesty's departure. It grieves him much. And yet he must 
congratulate the Empress of India upon the triumphant conclusion of 
the Afghan War.' 

The project having thus been approved in principle, Mr Dalton, 

Was the 'Bacchante* seaworthy? 

with his accustomed energy, flung himself upon the detailed arrange- 
ments. In consultation with naval officers of his acquaintance he 
went through the lists of lieutenants, sub-lieutenants, midshipmen 
and cadets in order to secure that the Princes should be accom- 
panied only by shipmates of irreproachable character. The problem 
of the command caused him. special anxiety. His own choice had 
been a Captain Fullerton and he was incensed when the Admiralty, 
without consulting his wishes, appointed Captain Lord Charles 
Scott. The ship chosen for the cruise was H.M.S. Bacchante, an 
unarmoured corvette of some four thousand tons. Mr Dalton was 
convinced that the Bacchante was not entirely seaworthy. He begged 
the Queen to insist on a frigate; she made it a condition that the 
Bacchante should undertake special trials before the two Princes em- 
barked. The confusion and irritation which resulted is well summar- 
ised in a memorandum written at the time by Sir Henry Ponsonby, 
Private Secretary to the Queen: 6 

*I am much perplexed about this Bacchante. 
i . Plan proposed to the Queen who did not at all like it. 

2. Dalton sent by the Prince of Wales to urge it. Queen's objections 
not pressed. 

3. Unanimous condemnation by the Cabinet of the plan. 

4. Indignation of the Queen and Prince at their interference. 

5. Cabinet say they didn't. Plan adopted. 

6. Controversies on the selection of officers. The Queen supporting 
what she believed to be the Prince of Wales' choice. Sometimes it 
appeared he wished for others. Final agreement on the officers. 

7. The Bacchante announced to be the ship. Who chose her, when and 
where I don't know. 

8. Chorus of approbation. 

9. Strong whispers against her. No stability. The Queen doubtful. 
The Prince of Wales doubtful. Dalton very doubtful prefers 

10. Smith (First Lord) furious, outwardly calm. Offers to turn over 
crew to Newcastle an old ship full of bilge water. Sends report in 
favour of Bacchante. 

1 1 . Scott ordered to cruise in search of a storm so as to see if she 

12. Scott returns, says she won't. Dalton not satisfied. Wants to 

separate Princes. 
13- Qjieen says this is what she first thought of but Dalton said it was 

impossible. Let him consult Prince and Princess of Wales. 

14. Queen mentions doubts to Lord Beaconsfield. 

15. B. observes he has already been snubbed but if his advice is 
wanted, he will give it. 

1 6. Knollys says that Dalton is wrong.' 


c The Cruise of the "Bacchante" ' 1879-1882 

Mr Dalton also was much discouraged by these controversies. 
On June 18, 1879, he humbly begged the Prince of Wales to relieve 
him of his duties. The request was not approved. It was thus with a 
heavy heart and with many misgivings that Mr. Dalton agreed to go. 
'I wish the scheme all success/ he wrote to Sir Henry Ponsonby on 
June 23, 'but it is not now my device. '-The Bacchante left Spithead for 
the Mediterranean on September 17, 1879. 


It is not intended to recount in detail the events of the three 
years which Prince George spent in the Bacchante. Those who are 
specially interested in the subject can refer to the two enormous 
volumes of 1400 pages which Mr Dalton published on their return 
and which purported to be based upon the journals and letters of the 
two Princes. 1 There were in fact three separate cruises of varying 
lengths. The first lasted for seven and a half months, from September 

x Mr Dalton's mighty work The cruise of H.M.S. Bacchante was well- 
intentioned. 'It would', he informed the Prince of Wales on May 16, 1882, 
'appear in the Princes' names and would redound to their credit and to 
that of Your Royal Highness, I hope.* 

The book was dedicated to the Queen by 'Her Majesty's affectionate 
and dutiful grandsons'. In his preface Mr Dalton stated that the work was 
based upon the diaries kept by the two Princes and upon the letters which 
they sent home. 'Such passages', he writes, 'as I have extracted from them 
I have thought it best to leave as they were first penned, however rough 
they might appear, rather than smooth them down in cold blood.' He 
adds that his own comments would be marked off in square brackets. The 
impression thus conveyed to the reader was that anything not in square 
brackets was the unedited work of the Princes themselves. 

This was an incorrect impression. Not only are the Princes made to 
insert in their diaries long passages from the Vulgate in the original Latin, 
but they are also represented as being able readily to quote from Theo- 
critus, Browning, Shakespeare, Byron, Tennyson, and the Duchess of 
Malfi. Typical of Mr Dalton's method is an extract, purporting to come 
from a diary entry by Prince George and written at Athens on May 20, 
1 882 : 'Then into a caf6, where gambling is going on and there was much to 
remind us of Aristophanes. 9 It is more than doubtful whether Prince 
George, at the age of sixteen, had ever heard of Aristophanes. Moral 
maxims, which never figure in Prince George's journals, are also intro- 
duced as 'Drink and improvidence make paupers here as elsewhere'. 

Those who were innocent enough to believe that they were reading 
the actual words of two young midshipmen must have been horrified to 
discover what insufferable midshipmen the two Princes were. 

1879-1882 World Tour 

17, 1879 to May 2, 1880, and took them to the Mediterranean and 
the West Indies. The second lasted only a few weeks and was under- 
taken in company with the combined Channel Fleet and Reserve 
Squadron and took them to Bantry Bay and Vigo. The third and 
longest lasted from September 14, 1880, to August 5, 1882, a period 
of nearly two years, and took them to South America, South Africa, 
Australia, Japan, China, Singapore and Egypt. 1 

The instructions issued by the Admiralty to Lord Charles Scott 
were that Prince George should be treated c in all respects as other 
midshipmen on board, with the exception of keeping Night Watch, 
from which he is to be excused under medical advice, as well as 
employment on boat service in tempestuous weather'. Prince Albert 
Victor, on the other hand, not being destined to become a naval 
officer, should be allowed more time to pursue his studies with Mr 
Dalton. The Qjieen was anxious that the two boys should not 
receive royal honours when visiting a foreign port; the Prince of 
Wales was of opinion that they should be accorded honours similar 
to those given to other foreign Princes, such as Prince Henry of 
Prussia. The matter was left to the judgement of Lord Charles Scott, 
who took the wise course of never advertising their presence on 
board, but allowing them to receive special honours when, as 
happened in Japan and Egypt, such courtesies appeared to be 
desired by the local rulers. 

The Princes had been accorded a cabin on the port side under 
the poop; it communicated with that of Mr Dalton and con- 
tained two swinging cots and two sea chests. The Princess of Wales 
had presented the ship with a harmonium in an oak case and with a 
number of chromolithographs after Birkett Foster for the decoration 
of the messes. The Princes took their meals with the other midship- 

1 The voyages of the Bacchante can be summarised as follows: First 
cruise, September ij, 1879, to May 2, 1880. Spithead - Gibraltar - Port 
Mahon - Palermo Gibraltar again - Madeira - Barbados - Granada - 
Martinique -Jamaica - Bermuda - Spithead. 

Second cruise with Channel Fleet, July 19, 1880, to August 12, 1880. Spithead - 
Bantry Bay - Vigo - Spithead. 

Third cruise, with LordClanwilliam's Detached Squadron. September 14, 1880, 
to August^, 1882. Spithead - Portland Roads - Ferrol - Vigo - Madeira - 
St Vincent - Monte Video - Buenos Aires - Falkland Islands - The Cape 
(from Feb. 16 to April 9, 1881) - Albany, West Australia - Adelaide - 
Sydney - Brisbane - Fiji - Yokohama - Shanghai - Canton - Hong Kong 
- Singapore - Colombo - Suez - Piraeus - Corfu - Palermo - Sardinia - 
Valencia - Gibraltar - Cowes. 

The tattooing incident 1879 

men and cadets in the gunroom; Mr Dalton, who had been ap- 
pointed honorary chaplain, messed with the Captain. 1 They con- 
tinued their lessons with Mr Dalton, having additional instruction in 
mathematics from Mr Lawless and in French from Assistant Pay- 
master Sceales. 

A picture of the Princes at this period is provided by Lord 
Napier, Governor of Gibraltar: 

The youngest 9 , he wrote on November 12, 1879, 'is the most 
lively and popular, but I think the eldest is better suited to his situa- 
tion he is shy and not demonstrative, but he does the right things as 
a young gentleman in a quiet way. It is well that he should be more 
reticent and reflective than the younger boy.' 

Prince George, except in his letters and diaries, was never 
addicted to reticence: Prince Eddy, at least in the earlier years, 
spoke infrequently and in a subdued voice. 

The only incident which disturbed the even current of the first 
cruise occurred in the West Indies. The Princes had been conducted 
over the Botanical Gardens in Barbados and had been encouraged 
to sniff the large lilies there displayed. They returned to the ship 
with their faces powdered with yellow pollen and a journalist who 
observed them telegraphed home to say that they had had them- 
selves tattooed on the nose. The Qjieen and the Prince of Wales 

1 The Bacchante was fully rigged with auxiliary engines. She was 307 
feet long by 45 feet broad. She carried 14 4^ ton muzzle-loading guns. 
Her complement was 450 officers and men, including: 

Captain, Lord Charles Scott: Commander, Staff Commander George 
Hill: Lieutenants, Assheton Curzon Howe, Osborne, Adair, and Fisher: 
Sub-Lieutenants, Rolfe, Murray, Royds, Burrows, Moore and Henderson: 
Midshipmen, Munro, Peel, Currey, Evan-Thomas, Fitzgerald, Limpus, 
Christian, J. C. M. Scott, and Basset: Naval Cadets, Hardinge, R. E. 
Wemyss, Hillyard, Osborne, Prince Albert Victor and Prince George of 

The Senior Midshipman, Mr E. L. Munro, was not regarded by Mr 
Dalton as a fitting companion for the two Princes. 'His almost feminine 
ways', wrote Mr Dalton, c & silly over-deference to them induced them to 
take liberties with him which they should not.' Mr Munro was removed 
from the Bacchante on grounds of health after the first cruise. 

Of the remaining midshipmen and cadets, R. E. Wemyss became 
Admiral of the Fleet, John Scott became seventh Duke of Buccleuch, Hugh 
Evan-Thomas (whose sister Mr Dalton married) became an Admiral, 
Commander G. W. Hillyard survived to broadcast his reminiscences after 
King George's death, and Arthur Limpus became an Admiral and Adviser 
to the Ottoman Navy. 

The Marlborough House set 

took the report seriously and angry telegrams were despatched. The 

Princess of Wales, as always, was amused: 

'How could you', she wrote to Prince George on December 30, 
1879, 'have your impudent snout tattoed? What an object you must 
look, and won't everybody stare at the ridiculous boy with an anchor 
on his nose! Why on earth not have put it somewhere else?' 

Mr Dalton hastened to reassure the anxious father: 

C I should wish', he wrote on January 27, 1880, c to set Your Royal 
Highness' mind perfectly at rest about the "tattoeing". The Princes' 
noses are without any fleck, mark, scratch or spot of any kind whatever. 
The skin is as white as the day they left home.' 

The Bacchante returned from her first cruise on May 2, 1880. On 
the day before disembarking at Spithead Mr Dalton drafted a 
report on the experiment for the Prince of Wales. Prince George had 
certainly benefited much from naval discipline, both morally and 
physically. His height was now 4 ft. 10 and his weight 88 pounds. 
He had passed his midshipman's examination with success. Prince 
Albert Victor, 'in spite of the kindly encouragement given him to 
work by his younger brother and by other of his messmates' had not 
made comparable progress. None the less Mr Dalton was convinced 
that the experiment had been a success and was positive that a more 
extended cruise on the part of both Princes would show equally 
valuable results. He was still of opinion, however, that for this longer 
voyage a sailing frigate would be preferable to the Bacchante. 

After a short holiday at home and after a second short cruise 
to Ireland and Spain with the Channel Fleet, the Princes, before 
embarking on their journey round the world, joined their parents 
for a month at Sandringham. Queen Victoria had for some time 
been suggesting that the boys might be contaminated by contact 
with the Marlborough House set; she spoke to the Prince of Wales on 
the subject: 

'We both entirely agree', he wrote to her on May 22, 1880, 'with 
all you say about our two boys. Our greatest wish is to keep them 
simple, pure and childlike as long as it is possible. . . . All you say, that 
they should avoid being mixed up with those of the so-called fashion- 
able society, we also entirely agree in and try our utmost not to let 
them be with them. The older they get the more difficult we see is the 
problem of their education and it gives us many an anxious thought 
and care.' 
In spite of this assurance, the Queen remained perturbed: 

'Many affectionate thanks', she answered from Balmoral on May 
26, Tor your dear letter, by which I am glad to see that you duly 

The third cruise 1880 

appreciate the extreme importance indeed I may say the vital 
importance of the dear Boys being kept quiet and above all apart 

from the society of fashionable and fast people With regard to their 

education, the one thing (after their religious education) which is of 
the greatest importance is now Foreign languages, in which they are 
unfortunately sadly deficient. You and your sisters spoke German and 
French when you were 5 or 6 and I fear they will never have this 
facility in speaking them.' 

A few weeks later we find the Queen, on July 6, d recurring to this 
difficult theme: 

6 I must also return most earnestly and strongly to the absolute 
necessity of the children, all of them, not mixing with the society you are 
constantly having. They must either take their meals together alone 9 
or you must breakfast and lunch alone with them and to this a room 
must be given up wherever you are.' 

The Prince of Wales replied to this with commendable patience and 


'With regard', he wrote on July n,* c tothe boys mixing with what 
you call "fashionable society", I assure you as I have had reason to 
say before that they do not do so. And we hope and think that they 
are so simple and innocent that those they have come in contact with 
have such tact with them that they are not likely to do them any 

Queen Victoria need have cherished no apprehensions. The only 
two people outside his immediate family who exercised any influence 
upon Prince George's boyhood (apart of course from Mr Dalton) 
were Captain Henry Stephenson and his uncle Admiral Sir Harry 
Keppel, 'the little Admiral'. His friendship with Oliver Montagu, 
generally known as Tut Tut' , was of a later date and wholly bene- 
ficial. He never possessed any predilection for fashionable society. 


On September 14, 1880, the Princes joined the Bacchante again 
for their world cruise. For the purpose of this journey the Bacchante 
had been assigned as training ship to a Detached Squadron under 
the command of Admiral Lord Clanwilliam. It was in company 
with this Squadron that they sailed to the Falklands and thereafter 
to the Cape, Australia and Japan. 

Prince George was deeply distressed at parting from his home 
and family for two whole years : 

'My darling Motherdear,* he wrote from Cowes on September 15, 
C I miss you so very much & felt so so sorry when I had to say goodbye 
to you and sisters & it was dreadfully hard saying goodbye to dear 

i88i Majuba 

Papa & Uncle Hans. 1 It was too rough yesterday to go to sea, so we 
stopped in here for the night. ... I felt so miserable yesterday saying 
goodbye. I shall think of you all going to Scotland tonight & I only 
wish we were going too. Lord Golville will take this letter & he has to 
go, so I must finish it. So goodbye once more my darling Motherdtar, please 
give darling Papa and sisters my very best love and kisses and very 
much to dear Uncle Hans. I remain your very loving son Georgy. So 
goodbye darling Motherdear, dearest Papa & sisters. 9 

They sailed via Vigo, Madeira and St. Vincent to the River 
Plate. January 24, 1881, found them at the Falkland Islands, intend- 
ing to round the Horn and cruise up the western coast of South 
America as far as the Galapagos. On January 25, however, a tele- 
gram was received from the Admiralty, instructing Lord Clan- 
william's Detached Squadron to turn eastwards immediately and to 
sail for the Cape. 

The Boers, under the leadership of Kruger, Pretorius and Jou- 
bert, had met at Paardekraal on December 13, 1880, and repudiated 
the proclamation of April 1877, under which the Transvaal had 
been annexed to the British Grown. Three days later they proclaimed 
a Republic. Hostilities immediately broke out and Sir George 
Colley, High Commissioner for South East Africa, marched towards 
the Transvaal with a force of 1400 men. The Boers, on the very day 
that the Bacchante arrived at the Falkland Islands, invaded Natal and 
occupied Laing's Nek. The Bacchante reached the Cape on February 
1 6, 1 88 1. Ten days later Sir George Colley was defeated and killed 
on Majuba Hill. * We are going to the Cape of Good Hope/ Prince 
George noted in his diary for January 26, 'because of the Basuter 

The moment the Queen heard that the Detached Squadron was 
to be diverted to the scene of action she became alarmed lest her two 
grandsons might form part of some expeditionary force: 

C I must earnestly protest 9 , she telegraphed to the Prince of Wales 
on January 20, 1881, 'against the Princes serving with the Naval 
Brigade on shore at the Cape. I strongly objected to their both going 
to sea, but consented on the suggestion that it was necessary for their 
education. The proposal to send them on active service destroys the 
cause of my former consent, and there is no reason for and many 
against their incurring danger in the South African war. 9 

The Prince of Wales had been delighted by the idea that his sons 

might add to their experience by seeing a little fighting. He was hurt 

and irritated by the Queen's intervention. The Queen remained 

1 Queen Alexandra's uncle, Prince John of Holstein-Sonderburg- 

Glucksburg (1825-1911). 


Cetywayo 1881 

adamant and sent implicit instructions to the First Lord of the 
Admiralty that the two Princes were in no circumstances to be 
attached to any naval brigade: 

'I am very sorry', she wrote to the Princess of Wales on February 
i8 3 1881, 'that Bertie should have been sore about the Boys . . . The 
Bacchante going to the Cape, which was done in a hurry without due 
consultation with me I disapproved. And feeling how valuable these 
2 young lives are to the whole Nation, I felt bound to protect them against 
useless and unnecessary exposure in a cruel Civil War, for so it is, the 
Boers being my subjects, and it being a rule that Princes of the Royal 
Family ought not to be mixed up in it. In any other War, should in 
time there be one, (when Georgie be older) and his ship be obliged 
necessarily to take part in it, I would quite agree with Bertie. 

Tray show this to him, as I am sure that he dnd everyone else 
would agree in this being the right course. 9 

Prince George himself, unaware of this controversy between his 
father and his grandmother, regarded the war objectively. 'This is 
really a dredful war is it not?' he wrote to his mother from Gape 
Town on March 7, 1881. C A11 these poor people killed & also poor 
General Colley.' 

During the six weeks that the Detached Squadron remained at 
anchor in Simon's Bay, awaiting the outcome of the negotiations 
between Kruger and the British Government, the Princes could 
visit Cape Town and make a few excursions in the vicinity. 'We 
passed an ostridge farm', records Prince George in his diary, 'and 
saw a good many ostridges.' They were conducted by the Governor 
to visit Cetywayo. 1 'He has got a little farm for himself/ wrote Prince 
George on February 26; 'we gave him each our photographs and he 
gave us his. He himself is eighteen stone and his wives 16 & 17 stone; 
there are four of them, they are very fine women, all over six feet.' 
Cetywayo was voluble in his expressions of loyalty to the British 
crown and assured the Princes that his one desire was to 'wash his 
spears in the blood of the Boers'. 

1 Cetywayo, King of the Zulus, was a nephew of the great Chaka. He 
succeeded to the throne in 1 872 and organised the Zulus on a military basis. 
In December 1878, Sir Bartle Frere, High Commissioner of South Africa, 
sent him an ultimatum summoning him to disband his regiments. Cety- 
wayo did not reply to this ultimatum, with the result that Lord Chelms- 
ford entered Zululand on January 1 1, 1879, at the head of 13,000 troops. 
Having defeated the British at Isandhlwana, Cetywayo was himself 
defeated at Ulundi on July 4, 1879, and taken prisoner in the following 
August. He was interned near Cape Town, visited London in 1882, and 
was restored by Mr Gladstone in 1883. He was unable to reimpose his 
authority and died at Ekowe on February 8, 1884. 

1881 Australia 

This opportunity was not accorded to him. Although the British 
public were under the impression that a fresh army under Sir 
Frederick Roberts was on its way to South Africa to 'avenge Majuba*, 
Mr Gladstone was in fact in private negotiation with Kruger. On 
March 6, 1881, a truce was arranged, followed, on August 3, by the 
Convention of Pretoria, by which the Boers were granted self- 
government under British suzerainty. Meanwhile, on April 9, 1881, 
the Detached Squadron had left the Cape on their journey to 


It took them five weeks of continuous sailing and steaming to 
cross the expanse of the Indian Ocean. Prince George, during that 
uninterrupted passage, was fully occupied. In the few spare moments 
which he could find, he read Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. 
He suffered much, as he always suffered, from bouts of sea-sickness. 
But most of his day was absorbed in study and in nautical exercises. 
The following extract from his diary is typical: 

'April 26 1881. At sea, Cape to Australia. Got up at 6.0 o'clock & 
had drill. A fine day with wind right aft but not quite so cold as it has 
been for the last three days. Going about 6 knots. I had breakfast at 8.0. 
Went to school with Mr. Lawless from 9.30 to 11.45. Had dinner at 
12.0. Did some French with Mr. Sceales. At 145 we went aloft \vith 
the ordinary seamen & boys & exercised shifting topsail. Then we did 
rifle and cutlass drill. Kept the 4 to 6 watch. After quarters, we 
exercised shifting topsails, we did it twice. Tea at 6.30. Then after tea 
I wrote some of my log up. Went to bed at 9.30.' 

A recollection of Prince George as a cadet and midshipman was 
broadcast after his death by Commander Hillyard, one of the last 
survivors of the Britannia of 1877 and a messmate in the Bacchante* : 

'I was shipmates for five years with our late King, when we were 
both youngsters. The companionship in one of Her Majesty's gunrooms 
in those days was of necessity a very close and intimate one. Weeks and 
weeks at sea, sometimes very monotonous weeks, living on food that 
was more than monotonous, and also exceedingly nasty. Mostly salt 
pork and ship's biscuits. Remember there were no comforts in those 
days. No such things as electrical freezing plant. So fresh vegetables, 
fruit and fresh provisions lasted a very, very short time after leaving 
harbour. Also, one got rather bored at always seeing the same old 
faces round the same old table, and tempers at times were apt to get a 
little frayed and irritable. Yet in all those years I never remember 
Prince George losing his temper. I certainly never had even a cross 


Danger 1881 

word with him. Unselfish, kindly, good-tempered, he was an ideal 

'I want you to realize that when he joined up he was only about 
12 J years old, and that he actually went to sea only 14 J. Yet, even at 
this early age he had, when in charge of one of the ship's cutters, for 
instance, to accept full responsibility for the lives of men. He also had 
to endure all the discomforts and all the hardships which were the 
inevitable and common lot of anyone who went to sea in those days. 

'In my humble opinion the training he thus obtained in the 
Royal Navy, and the strict discipline to which he was subject, were 
tremendous factors in forming the character of the great and lovable 
man, and wise king he afterwards became ' 

The intimacies of nautical life are in any case different in kind 
from those forged by other associations. On the one hand, they are 
more physically proximate and thus more stark and less selective: on 
the other hand in that, with a change of ship, the whole pattern of 
acquaintance has to be reformed they are more adventitious and 
therefore less profound. The tendency thus arises to adopt a standard- 
ised pattern of comradeship, in which emotional relations are seldom 
involved. Friendliness becomes more common than friendship and 
general good fellowship more customary than exclusive individual 
affections. In the case of the two Princes this general habit of 
impersonal intimacy was reinforced by the presence of Mr Dalton. 
Anxious as he was that they should be exposed to no influence other 
than his own, he discouraged any close familiarity, any partial 
preferences, any selective fraternisation. 

When four hundred miles from Australia the Squadron ran into 
rough weather. Heavy seas broke over the Bacchante, a cutter was 
washed away and the steering gear refused to function. Mr Dalton 
was much alarmed. It seemed to him that the apprehensions which 
he had voiced regarding the instability of the corvette were being 
abundantly justified. Lord Clanwilliam had been unable in the gale 
to retain contact with the Bacchante; the rest of the Detached Squad- 
ron had disappeared. Here were the two Princes, without hope of 
human assistance, drifting in a hurricane towards the South Pole. 1 

1 This was an imaginative interpretation. The fact that it was the 
second cutter, which is usually hoisted on the port side, which was carried 
away suggests that the port side was the lee side and that the gale there- 
fore was from the south-west. This assumption is confirmed by the rapidity 
with which thereafter they made King George's Sound. The rudderless 
Bacchante would therefore have drifted, had she not been repaired in time 
by the skill and seamanship of Lord Charles Scott and others, not to- 
wards the South Pole, but towards the coast of Australia. 

. King George's Sound 

Prince George's own impressions of the misfortune were more 

Thursday May 12 1881. At sea; blowing very hard all night. This 
morning at 5.0. o'clock we gave a very heavy roll & the 2nd cutter 
filled & was washed away and lost. A heavy sea running, 9 to 10 the 
force of the wind. A great many seas coming over the nettings. We 
tipped the ist cutter up. We gave a heavy roll which carried away both 
davits & brought the cutter on to the mizzen rigging where we lashed 
her. We dipped the galley too, & the jollyboat, so we turned both in. 
We split the mainsail. Hailing in the squalls. 

'Friday May 13. At sea; in the first watch we came right up in the 
wind in a squall and could not go off again so we treble reefed the fore 
& main topsails & furled the miz. tps. Blowing very hard indeed in the 
night. Got the screw down and tried steaming to get her head from the 
wind but could not. Had the morning watch. We shortened and 
furled sails at 7.0. Blowing 8 to 10. A heavy sea. We got her head off in 
the afternoon at last 

'Saturday May 14. We do not yet know what is the matter with the 
rudder ' 

The rudder had in fact been torn sideways and refused to answer 
to the helm. Adjustments were made and Lord Charles Scott, who 
had no sleep for three nights, was able to turn the vessel northwards. 
On Sunday, May 15, they sighted Mount Gardner in Western 
Australia. That afternoon they anchored safely in King George's 
Sound, within view of the town of Albany. The Princes, much to 
Mr Dalton's indignation, were thereupon transferred to the Inconstant 
while the Bacchante was undergoing the necessary repairs. 

The cruise thereafter followed its prescribed course. After visiting 
Sydney, they rejoined the Bacchante on August 2 and went in her to 
Brisbane, the Fiji Islands and Japan, where they were received by 
the Mikado. There followed visits to Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Singa- 
pore and Colombo. On March i, 1882, the Princes landed at Suez 
on their return journey. They went up the Nile as far as Luxor and 
the month of April was spent on a tour of the Holy Land. Prince 
George was not impressed by the stories related to him by the local 
guides: 'All the places', he wrote on April 20, 1882, 'are only said to 
be the places.* At Jerusalem the two Princes camped among the 
olives and on this occasion they really were tattooed. c We have been 
Tatoed', he wrote to his mother, 'by the same old man that tatoed 
Papa & the same thing too the 5 crosses. You ask Papa to show his 

On May 1 1 they reached the Piraeus where they were welcomed 


Greek relations 1882 

by their uncle and aunt, King George and Queen Olga, and taken 
for ten days up to Tatoi. Fond as he was of his uncle, the King of the 
Hellenes, and of his Greek cousins, it was Queen Olga especially 
whom he loved. 'Uncle Willy' in after years would write him long 
and frequent letters, containing such Danish endearments as 'gamle 
p0lse 9 or 'gamle sylte'. 1 His cousins, Prince Nicholas and Prince George, 
were also frequent correspondents. But throughout his boyhood and 
early manhood it was Queen Olga humorous, gifted and affection- 
ate who became for him almost a second mother. The parting from 
these beloved relations was a bitter one: 

'May 20 1882. The Palace Athens. We dined at 7.0. All very sad 
at dinner. At 8.30. we had to say goodbye to darling Aunt Olga & 
cousins. We all cryed very much, we have spent such a delightful time 
here. We went \vith Uncle Willy on board the Bacchante in his steam 
launch. We talked with him in the cabin until nearly I .o; then we had 
to say goodbye to him. I was so sorry, I cryed again. We then went to 
bed. 9 

Mr Dalton, for his part, was glad to see the last of Athens and 
Tatoi. He noted that Prince George had been 'more than usually 
vivacious since his stay here*. 'Late hours', he added *are almost 
inevitable on shore, at any rate when they are guests in a palace; 
late hours, I mean, according to what they are accustomed to. 
Routine work for two months will do them a vast deal of good. 9 

On the whole he was delighted by the progress made by his 
younger pupil: 

'Prince George's old enemy', he had reported to the Prince of Wales 
on January 9, 1882, 'is that nervously excitable temperament which 
still sometimes leads him to fret at difficulties instead effacing them, 
and thus "make mountains out of molehills". He is getting over this as 
he grows older; and now that bodily he is beginning to fill out and 
become physically stronger, it will I hope soon pass away.* 

The Bacchante left the Piraeus on May 2 1, but spent a further five 
weeks visiting Mediterranean ports. At 1.0 p.m. on Friday, August 4, 
1882, they sighted the coast of England. 'I was glad to see it/ Prince 
George enters in his diary. 'Nearly two years since I saw it last.' On 
Saturday, August 5, they anchored in Gowes roads, and the Prince 
of Wales with the Princess and their daughters came on board. 
Three days later they were taken up to Osborne to be welcomed by 
the Qjieen. 'Georgie', she wrote, *is much grown. He has still the 
same bright, merry face as ever.* 

1 Meaning 'my dear old sausage' and 'my dear old pickled pork'. 

1882 Homecoming 

At 4.0 p.m. that afternoon the two boys were confirmed in the 
Queen's presence by Archbishop Tait at Whippingham Church. 
Queen Victoria had already asked the Archbishop c to point out to 
them both their duty to their Sovereign and Grandmother as well as to 
their Parents, and how responsible as Princes as well as youths their 
positions are 5 . The Archbishop in his allocution obeyed these 
behests. 'God grant 5 , he said, c that you, Sirs, may show to the world 
what Christian Princes ought to be. 9 It was almost his last allocution. 
Archbishop Tait died in December of that year. 

On Monday, August 14, Prince George said farewell to the 
Bacchante. 'I am very sorry 5 , he wrote 'to say goodbye to the people 
that I have been three years with. 5 The ship was paid off on August 



Effect of naval training upon Prince George's character His concept of 
the duties of a seaman And of the duties of a Prince He goes to 
Lausanne he is separated from Prince Eddy and is appointed to the 
North American Squadron A course in gunnery Queen Victoria's 
admirable advice Captain J. A. Fisher's eulogy The Medi- 
terranean Fleet Captain Stephenson At Malta He grows a 
beard His continued homesickness Miss Stonor At Athens again 
Death of the Emperor Frederick Torpedo Boat 79 a visit to 
Berlin HM.S. ttrush the Duke of Clarence and Princess H6tene 
Queen Victoria is anxious for Prince George to marry the death 
of the Duke of Clarence. 


IT may be felt that, for a book which purports to be a political 
biography, too much space has been allotted to the early years; and 
that it was unnecessary to treat at such length a period which has 
already been so admirably covered in Mr John Gore's Personal 
Memoir. Yet any biography must describe the interaction between an 
individual and his environment. The influence which King George 
exercised during the twenty-five years of his reign was due, not to any 
exceptional gifts of imagination or intellect, but to the consistency of 
his principles and beliefs. It was this consistency which enabled him 
throughout an angry phase of transition and disbelief, to symbolise 
stability and to command universal confidence. The recurrent theme 
of this biography will thus be the contrast between the simple 
straightness of King George's character and the intricate political 
fluctuations with which he had to cope. In order to understand his 
character, it is important to realise that, in all essentials, it crystallised 
in early adolescence. His temperament, his prejudices and affections, 
his habits of thought and conduct, his whole outlook on life, were 
formed and moulded during the years between 1877 and 1882. The 
great events which happened to him in later life (the death of his 
elder brother, his marriage to a woman of superior intelligence, his 
accession to the throne) served only to deepen and widen furrows 
which had been traced in his boyhood years. Not being an intellec- 

1882-1892 The e/ect of naval training 

tual, he was never variable: he remained uniform throughout his 

It has therefore been necessary to examine in some detail the 
contrasting influences which, by the time he reached his seventeenth 
year, had produced an integrated personality. As a child he was 
vivacious, affectionate, inclined to self-approval and thus easily dis- 
couraged. Spoilt by his mother and intimidated by his father, sur- 
rounded by a narrow circle of mutually admiring relations, the 
harmony of his days constantly interrupted by displacements, he 
might, but for the devoted watchfulness of Mr Dalton, have sur- 
rendered too easily to the comforts of his home, the privileges of his 
position, or the ease of his own merriness and charm. The icy plunge 
into the rigours of naval discipline, the sudden fact that instead of 
being always saluted he had now always to salute, the harshness and 
dolours of the Britannia and the Bacchante, might well have lamed his 
self-assurance and rendered him diffident, sullen, or perplexed. The 
admirable thing about him was that, while retaining all the impulses 
and sentiments of boyhood, he so soon developed a quality 
more forcible than ordinary manliness a categorical sense of 
duty. It was this potent quality which became the fly-wheel of his 

The firm and simple lessons which he absorbed as a cadet and 
midshipman could not be better summarised than in the words 
which he himself used when addressing the boys of the training ship 
Conwqy, in July 1899. He then defined the three qualities required of 
a sailor as: *(i) Truthfulness, without which no man can gain the 
confidence of those below him; (2) Obedience, without which no 
man can gain the confidence of those above him; and (3) Zest, 
without which "no seaman is worth his salt".' 

The effect upon him of his position as a Prince of the Royal 
House is more difficult to estimate. It is not easy for those not 
reared in the esoteric atmosphere of a Court to imagine by what 
gradations a little Prince comes to realise that he belongs to a race 
apart. This perplexing discovery was for Prince George rendered less 
personally confusing by the natural predominance of his grand- 
mother, Queen Victoria. For him, as has been said, she was some- 
thing more than the family matriarch; she was the symbol and 
personification of Monarchy. It seemed wholly natural to him that 
he, as her grandson, should in some way be gilded with the rays of 
this magnificent aura and should be accorded on occasions greater 
deference than that vouchsafed to his shipmates. The honours which 
B 33 


were sometimes paid to him when his ship visited foreign ports 
never suggested any personal pre-eminence, but were always taken 
for granted as inevitable 'functions', which he performed (without 
particular pleasure or particular distaste) as part of a necessary, if 
irksome, routine. His only anxiety was that they should be suitably 
and efficiently carried out. 

If, therefore, it is legitimate to assume that the main framework 
of his character was fixed during his five years in the Britannia and the 
Bacchante, then it is permissible to deal in far more summary terms 
with the ten further years which he spent as an active serving officer. 1 


On returning from their world voyage, the two Princes were sent 
for six months to Lausanne in Switzerland in order to learn French. 
They were accompanied by Mr Dalton, Mr Lawless and Monsieur 
Hua, who had been French master in the Britannia. 2 They stayed at 
the Beau Rivage at Ouchy, which Prince George pronounced to be 
'a capital hotel 5 ; they regularly visited the theatre at Lausanne and 
they played bezique in the evenings. It was not a lively period. 
Then we all took a good walk', Prince George noted in his diary, 
'out by the cemetary & round by the town & in at 4.0.' The Princes 
were shy of speaking French in each other's presence and preferred, 
much to the distress of Mr Dalton and Monsieur Hua, to play games 
with the children of the English visitors to the hotel. 'Prince George', 
Mr Dalton reported on February 23, 1883, 'manfully does his best 
and is really making sound and rapid progress.' Monsieur Hua was 
even more eulogistic. He discovered in his younger pupil c a remark- 
ably spontaneous intelligence quickly grasping some explanation 
or principle but also sometimes the faults which go with these same 
qualities and a momentary discouragement at meeting the first 
difficulty'. In spite of this intensive tuition, it cannot be said that 
Prince George ever became proficient in the French language; he 
could read and understand with ease; his accent remained British to 
the end. 

The two Princes returned from Lausanne in May 1883, and in the 

1 The reader is referred to the abstract of Prince George's naval 
career which will be found in note on pp. 11-12. 

* Monsieur Hua, a heavily bearded Frenchman, later became a master 
at Eton and survived to teach French to Prince George's two sons, Prince 
Edward (subsequently King Edward VIII) and Prince Albert (sub- 
sequently King George VI). He died in 1909. 


1884 North American Squadron 

following months they were parted for the first time in their lives. 
Prince Eddy remained at Sandringham with a bevy of tutors who 
were coaching him for Cambridge. Prince George was appointed to 
H.M.S. Canada of the West Indian and North American Squadron: 

'My dear George/ Prince Eddy wrote to him on June 15, 1883, *So 
we are at last separated for the first time and I can't tell you how 
strange it seems to be without you and how much I miss you in every- 
thing all day long. 9 

Prince George was now entirely on his own; there was no Prince 
Eddy to share his confidences, no Mr Dalton to supervise his actions 
and associates, no Charles Fuller to minister to his comforts. Captain 
Francis Durrant, who commanded H.M.S. Canada, was formally 
appointed his Governor, in a letter signed by both Qjieen Victoria 
and the Prince of Wales. 'His Royal Highness', Captain Durrant was 
instructed, 'will be treated in all respects and on all occasions, while 
on board ship, in the same manner as the other officers of his own 
rank with whom he is serving.' He was not to receive any special 
honours when visiting foreign or colonial ports, neither was he to 
attend e any State receptions given in his honour*. During the year 
which he spent with the North American squadron he lived as any 
other midshipman; he slept in a hammock and had his meals in the 
gunroom; in the company of his fellow midshipmen he visited 
Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax. He became a 
Sub-lieutenant in June 1884, and returned to England in July of that 

The autumn of 1884 was spent at the Royal Naval College, 
Greenwich, and in March of 1885 he went for a gunnery course to 
H.M.S. Excellent at Portsmouth. His instructor at Greenwich, 
Mr J. L. Robinson, in a letter to Lawless, highly commended his 
'habits of sound and honest work*. 6 I only wish*, he added, c that his 
example in these important respects and his good sense were followed 
by all young officers.* 

Queen Victoria was less optimistic: 

'Avoid', she wrote to him on June 2, 1885, c the many evil temptations 
wh. beset all young men and especially Princes. Beware of flatterers, 
too great love of amusement, of races & betting & playing high. I hear 
on all sides what a good steady boy you are & how you can be trusted. 
Still you must always be on the watch & must not fear ridicule if you 
do what is right. Alas! Society is very bad in these days; what is wrong 
is winked at, allowed even, & as for betting or anything of that kind, 
no end of young and older men have been ruined, parents hearts 
broken, & great names and Titles dragged in the dirt. It is in your 


Captain J. A. Fisher 1885 

power to do immense good by setting an example & keeping your dear 

Grandpapa's name before you. 

*I am afraid you will think this a long lecture, but grandmama 

loves you so much and is so anxious that you should be a blessing to 

your Parents, herself & your Country, and she cd. not do otherwise but 

write to you as she feels' 

His course in H.M.S. Excellent at Portsmouth was a great success. 
He gained a first class in gunnery, torpedo work and seamanship, 
and only missed a first in pilotage by twenty marks. He was gazetted 
Lieutenant on October 8, 1885. Captain J. A. Fisher, commandant 
of H.M.S. Excellent, on that date addressed to Queen Victoria a most 
laudatory report: 

'During his six months stay', he wrote, 'on board the Excellent under 
my command his attention to his work and the manner in which he has 
performed all his duties have been all that Your Majesty could 
desire. He has with great tact and good judgement, and quite of his 
own accord, declined many invitations, kindly meant to give him 
pleasure, but which would have taken him too much from his work 
besides bringing him more prominently into public notice than Your 
Majesty might have thought desirable under the circumstances. His 
Instructors have reported to me that his aptitude for the practical work 
of his profession is very good and Your Majesty may perhaps consider 
that this is the chief point, as it will not probably faU to his lot to write 
learned reports or to make mathematical investigations. His pleasant 
and unassuming manner has been a matter of general notice ' 

Lord George Hamilton, First Lord of the Admiralty, in forward- 
ing the results of the examination to the Prince of Wales, added that 
'the capacity which Prince George has shown is unusual'. The 
Prince of Wales was delighted. *It shows 9 , he wrote to his son on 
October 15, 'that there is no favouritism in your case. 5 'Georgie', 
commented Queen Victoria in her diary for November 5, 1885, 'is so 
dear & amiable/ 


The years 1886 to 1888 were spent in the Mediterranean. He 
served successively in H.M.S. Thunderer, H.M.S. Dreadnought, and 
H.M.S. Alexandra. His first captain was Henry Stephenson, one of 
his father's closest friends, and a man to whom Prince George him- 
self was long devoted. 1 'I fed', the Prince of Wales wrote to Captain 

1 Captain (subsequently Admiral Sir Henry) Stephenson had had an 
active and varied career. Born in 1842, he had served in the Crimean War, 
the China Expedition, the Indian Mutiny, and the Egyptian campaign 
against Arabi. He had also served in an Arctic expedition in 1857. He 


i886-i888 The Mediterranean 

Stephenson on January 4, 1886, 'that in entrusting my son to your 
care I cannot place him in safer hands, only don't spoil him please! 
Let him be treated like any other officer in the ship. 5 

His relaxations while serving in the Mediterranean Fleet were 
not different from those of any other naval officer of private means. 
When at Malta he could play polo on the Marsa, take long picnic 
rides on his horse c Real Jam 9 , and have a game of billiards in the 
evening at the Union Club in the Strada Reale. It is from this 
period that dates his friendship with Charles Gust, a fellow lieutenant 
in the Thunderer. His uncle, the Duke of Edinburgh, 1 was at the time 
Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet and Prince George 
would spend much of his spare time at San Antonio Palace with his 
aunt and cousins. It was his uncle who encouraged him to take up 
stamp-collecting, a pastime which became a constant interest to him 
in later life. It was in 1886 also that he first grew a beard. 'I daresay', 

became Naval A.D.CS. to Queen Victoria in 1888 and served as equerry 
to the Prince of Wales from 1878 to 1893. Eventually he became Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the Pacific Squadron and the Channel Fleet. In 1904, 
on his retirement from the Navy, he became Gentleman Usher of the 
Black Rod and died in 1919. 

He had a great influence on Prince George's early life and took a great 
and prudent interest in his naval career. He was a nephew, on his mother's 
side, of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel (1809-1904) who, as 'the 
little Admiral 9 , was one of the most intimate friends of the Royal Family. 

1 Queen Victoria's second son, Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and sub- 
sequently Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born at Windsor in 1844. He 
was offered but refused the crown of Greece in 1862, and adopted a naval 
career. He became a captain at the age of 22, rose to command the 
Mediterranean Fleet and was made Admiral of the Fleet in 1893. 

On the death in 1893 of ^ uncle, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg- 
Gotha, he succeeded to the vacant Duchy and thereafter resided at 
Coburg until his death in July 1 900. 

In 1874 he married the Grand Duchess Marie, only daughter of the 
Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Prince George was very fond of his aunt, 
whom he described (Diary, February 8, 1888) as 'so kind, honest & 
straightforward & so true'. 

They had one son and four daughters. The son, Prince Alfred, died of 
tuberculosis in 1899. The eldest daughter, Princess Marie ('Missy'), became 
Queen of Rumania and died in 1938. The second daughter, Victoria 
Melita ('Ducky'), married, first, the Grand Duke of Hesse and, second, the 
Grand Duke Cyril of Russia. The third daughter, Alexandra, married the 
hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenberg. The fourth daughter, 
Beatrice ('Baby Bee'), married the Infante Alfonso of Spain. 

On his death he was succeeded as Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by 
Charles, son of the Duke of Albany, who was born at Claremont in 1884. 


The Prince and his father 1886 

he wrote to the Queen in sending her a photograph taken at San 
Antonio, 'that you will think that my beard has altered me rather.* 
His mother was not entirely pleased: 

'What I do not understand/ she wrote to him on November ai, 1886, 
4 is why you, you little mite, should have so much hair about you, 
whereas he (Prince Eddy) the biggest has none yet.' 

Prince Eddy himself was more critical: 

'Oh yes,' he wrote on December 27, 1886, 'I got your photos all right 
and thought them very good, but would have preferred you without a 
beard. I dare say it is more comfortable than shaving, which I now do 
nearly every day, but it makes you look so much older and I think you 
might take it off before you come home, if you feel inclined to. Old 
Curzon has taken off his and looks very much better.' 

His family affections were enhanced rather than diminished by 
these separations. In the early spring of 1886 he had spent a few days 
alone with his father at Cannes. e On seeing you going off', the latter 
wrote to him on March 5, 1886, c by the train yesterday, I felt very 
sad & you could I am sure see that I had a lump in my throat when 
I wished you goodbye.' This letter crossed one written by Prince 

'Hotel Royal des Etrangers. Naples 

'March 7 1886. 
'My dearest Papa, 

'I cannot tell you how I miss you every minute of the day, because 
we have been together so much lately. It was so kind of you coming all 
the way to Mentone to see me off the other day. I felt so very low at 
saying goodbye to you, but I cannot say how pleased I am that I have 
got such a kind & good friend as Captain Stephenson & that although 
now I am separated from all I love & from all my friends I still have 
one left in Captain Stephenson.' 

This persistent tendency to homesickness was a sign of his 
protracted adolescence. In October 1886 we find him writing to his 
mother from H.M.S. Dreadnought at Corfu: 

'You will be going to Sandringham almost at once I suppose for dear 
Papa's birthday. How I wish I was going to be there too, it almost 
makes me cry when I think of it. I wonder who will have that sweet 
little room of mine, you must go and see it sometimes & imagine that 
your little Georgie dear is living in it.' 

His longing for home was, at this period, coloured by a senti- 
mental attraction. One of the Princess of Wales's earliest ladies-in- 
waiting, Mrs Francis Stonor, had died, while still comparatively 
young, in 1883. Her two younger children, Harry and Julie Stonor, 

i88j Miss Stonor 

were treated with great kindness by the Prince and Princess of Wales 
and frequently invited to Sandringham. Prince George, during his 
visits on leave to England, and again at Cannes, saw much of Julie 
Stonor and they exchanged warmly affectionate letters. The Prince 
and Princess of Wales smiled benignly on this boy and girl romance, 
confident that no harm could result. Their wisdom was fully justified. 
His affection for Miss Stonor rendered Prince George immune to any 
other compromising associations during the years that he was absent 
from home. And in 1891 she married the Marquis d'Hautpoul and 
remained one of the most trusted friends of the Royal Family for ever 

In June of 1887 he came on leave to attend Queen Victoria's 
jubilee. After paying a visit to Dublin, he had a week's yachting at 
Cowes. On August 4, as he noted in his diary, he sailed in the Aline in 
the company of Lady Randolph Churchill and her schoolboy son, 
Winston, then aged thirteen. On August 12 he left in a passenger 
steamer for Gibraltar where he rejoined the Dreadnought. During the 
autumn he accompanied his uncle on a cruise to Venice, the Adriatic 
ports and Athens. In the intervals of his naval occupations he read a 
quantity of novels. He mentions specifically a romance entitled 
Wrong on Both Sides. c Such a lovely book/ he confided to his diary, 'I 
always cry over it.* * Les Miserable* also was a book which accom- 
panied him on many a Mediterranean cruise. 

In January 1888, he was again in Athens staying for a few days at 
Tatoi with his uncle the King of the Hellenes and with his beloved 
Aunt Olga, who was always glad to welcome back *my little sun- 
beam'. Queen Victoria appears to have taken some exception to 
these frequent visits to his Greek relations: 

'Why on earth should I not?' Prince George wrote indignantly to his 
mother on February 2, 1888. 'Why may I not go and see Uncle Willy 
if you and Papa wish me to? It is the greatest bosh I ever heard.' His 
natural reverence for his Sovereign came immediately to check such 

1 The novel Wrong on Both Sides was written by Vin Vincent and pub- 
lished by Farran, Okeden & Walsh in 1885. It is composed in the revolting 
manner of Little Lord Fauntleroy. It describes how the evangelical Earl of 
Grantown was unable to gain the affections of his son, Viscount Tem- 
peston, owing to the fact that the deep devotion which they potentially 
possessed for each other was inhibited by pride. The father was harsh on 
top and loving underneath; the son, although 'wild and passionate' 
possessed a 'warm loving heart'. The misunderstanding which arose 
between them led to many unhappy consequences, including the death 
of a young lady whose horse was frightened by a threshing machine. 


The Emperor Frederick 1888 

audacity. 'Please', he adds, 'don't leave this letter lying about, 
Motherdear, as there are some things perhaps that I ought not to have 
said, but I always tell you everything you see Motherdear. Better burn 

it. 9 

Within a few weeks the time came round when he was again due 
to go home on leave, the occasion being the silver wedding of his 

'In about three weeks' time,' he wrote to his mother from Naples, 'I 
shall be leaving here for beloved old England again, it seems too 
delightful to be true and then in about a month's time I shall see your 
beloved lovely face once more. Oh! Won't I give it a great big kiss and 
shan't we have lots to tell one another darling Motherdear after having 
been separated for these long 7 months!' 

The celebration of the silver wedding had been fixed for March 
10, but the festivities were clouded by the death, on March 9, of the 
old German Emperor, William I. His successor, the Emperor 
Frederick III, reigned for only ninety-nine days, dying at Potsdam 
on June 15: 

'Try, my dear Georgy,' the Prince of Wales wrote on the following day, 
e never to forget Uncle Fritz. He was one of the finest and noblest 
characters ever known; if he had a fault, he was too good for this world.' 

The Emperor Frederick was succeeded by his son, William II, 
then a young man of twenty-nine. The Princess of Wales (whose 
influence over her husband was much greater than is generally 
supposed) had never forgiven Prince Bismarck for his action in 
robbing her father of the Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein in 1864, and 
her brother-in-law, the Duke of Cumberland, of his private fortune. 
Her detestation of Bismarck was now transferred to the young 
Emperor. She was much incensed by the latter's treatment of his 
mother, the Empress Frederick, immediately after his accession: 

'Instead', she wrote on August 12, 1888, c of William being a comfort 
and support to her, he has quite gone over to Bismarck and Co. who 
entirely overlook and crush her. Which is too infamous.' 

The relations between the Prince of Wales and his nephew, the 
new German Emperor, were not improved by an unfortunate 
incident which occurred a few weeks later. In September 1888, the 
Prince of Wales was paying a private visit to Vienna. The Emperor 
William announced his intention of arriving on an official visit and 
intimated that no other royal personage should be in the Austrian 
capital at the same time. The Emperor Francis Joseph was much 

i88g Torpedo Boat 79 

embarrassed by this intimation and the Prince of Wales, in order to 
ease the position, went off on a journey to Rumania. 

Prince George returned to England on November 17, 1888. He 
went down to Windsor where he found Mr Dalton married and 
installed as a Canon. 'They have such a nice little boy/ he wrote on 
December n, 'fifteen months old. 9 Thereafter he proceeded to his 
adored Sandringham for Christmas and the New Year. The 1888 
volume of his diary ends as follows: 

'Goodbye dear old diary & don't let anyone read you. You are full 
now, so I shall not write in you any more.* 

It was a new volume which he opened for his journal from 1889 
to 1892. 


After a few more weeks in the Mediterranean, Prince George 
returned to England in April 1889, for a further course in H.M.S. 
Excellent at Portsmouth. He at the same time attended a torpedo 
course in H.M.S. Vernon. On June i he was given the Freedom of the 
City of London: 

'Made a speech, then drove to the Mansion House, where the Lord 
Mayor gave us a huge lunch. Made another speech. Was awfully 

On July 1 8 he commissioned Torpedo Boat No. 79, his first 
independent command. After taking part in the naval exercises held 
at Spithead in honour of William II, he went with other units of the 
fleet to western Ireland. The weather was stormy and he suffered 
much. 1 'Up all night/ he records, 'was terribly seasick. 9 With the 
example of Nelson before him, such experiences did not damp his 
ardour. a On August 23 he succeeded in rescuing, and towing to 
safety, Torpedo Boat No. 41, which had broken down in Lough 
S willy and was in a perilous position on a lee shore: 

'The service 9 , wrote Captain Fitzgerald of the Inflexible to the Prince of 
Wales, c was not unattended by danger and required both nerve and 
judgement and would have reflected credit on an officer of far wider 
experience than His Royal Highness.' 

Prince George's own comment on this incident was terse: 'It has 
been a most damnable day. Very tired. 3 

In March 1890, Prince Eddy being then in India, he accom- 

1 A naval officer, to whose flotilla T.B. 79 was attached in 1904, recalls 

that she shipped an unusual amount of water since her torpedo tubes 

were in her peak. 'We were always 9 , he writes, 'sorry for 79 in any weather.' 

B2 41 

Prince Bismarck 1890 

panied his father on a state visit to Berlin. They arrived at the 
Lehrter Bahnhof on March 21, three days after the Emperor had 
dismissed Prince Bismarck from office. Prince George was invested 
by his cousin with the collar and robes of the Black Eagle and 
awarded the honorary command of a Prussian regiment: 

*And so', his mother wrote to him on April 1 1, c my Georgie boy has 
become a real live filthy bluecoated Picklehaube German soldier!!! 
Well, I never thought to have lived to see that\ But never mind; as you 
say, it could not have been helped it was your misfortune and not 
your fault and anything was better even my two boys being 
sacrificed!!! than Papa being made a German Admiral that I 
could not have survived you would have had to look for your poor 
old Motherdear at the bottom of the sea, the first time he adorned 
himself with it!' 

What Sir Sidney Lee, 6 somewhat ungenerously, calls the Prince 
of Wales's 'eager curiosity' led him to pay a call upon Prince Bis- 
marck. He found the latter seething with rage and full of dire 
prognostications. Prince George, who accompanied his father, 
makes no comment on this provocative visit. c He speaks English 
perfectly 5 was all that he recorded of the fallen Chancellor. 

In May 1890, Prince George assumed command of a first-class 
gunboat, H.M.S Thrush, and was absent in her with the West Indies 
and North America squadron until July 1891. His brother, Prince 
Eddy, had by then reached the age of twenty-six and had, on May 24, 
1890, been created Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Queen Victoria, 
not unnaturally, was anxious that he should marry. Prince George 
had for long held decided views upon this subject: 

'Sisters tell me', he had written to his mother as long ago as October 2 1 , 
1886, e that the Comte & Gomtesse de Paris are coming for Papa's 
birthday. ... I want to ask you something, Motherdear. Have you 
read that article in Vanity Fair of the gth of October headed An English 
Queen Consort ? If you have not, you must get it & read it. I think it is 
one of the best I have read & I am sure you will agree with me. Of 
course the first part is stuff (as you would say) but what it says is that all 
English people hope that dear Eddy will not marry a German but that 
he will marry some English woman, of course there is plenty of time to 
think of that. When I read it, it struck me as being so sensible & so 
true & the more I think it over the more I feel that it would be so much 
nicer if he married an English person. I think, Motherdear, that you 
think the same as I do, but I am afraid that both Grandmamma & 

dear Papa wish him to marry a German, but I don't know Do you 

remember all our talks we used to have together, before I left? And 
now that I am away from home I think of all these things much more 
than I did & I suppose it is because I am getting older too.' 

I ^9 I Projects of Marriage 

Prince George showed uncanny prescience in thus coupling the 
Orleans family with the idea of Prince Eddy's marriage. Four years 
later, in September 1890, the Comte and Comtesse de Paris 1 came to 
stay at Abergeldie with their beautiful daughter Etetene. The latter 
had for more than two years been in love with the Duke of Clarence 
and Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales were not in principle 
opposed to their becoming engaged. The Gomte de Paris made it a 
condition however that she should change her religion only with the 
Pope's consent. The Pope refused to grant a dispensation and by 
July 1891, the project was abandoned/ 

Meanwhile, Queen Victoria had also been urging Prince George 
to think of marriage. He replied to her from the Thrush at Jamaica on 
February 6, 1891: - 

1 quite agree with you, dearest Grandmama & understand your 
reasons for wishing Eddy & I to marry as soon as possible. But still I 
think marrying too young is a bad thing, but I don't call Eddy too 
young, he is 27. Then again the wife ought not to be too young; look 
at the poor Crown Prince Rudolph. She was certainly too young when 
he married her; she became very ill after her first child was born & he 
was naturally a very wild young man. The result was he committed 
suicide & killed this poor girl & brought the most terrible sorrow & 
shame to his poor wife & parents; that is only one instance of young 
marriages that I know of. ... The one thing I never could do is to 
many a person that didn't care for me. I should be miserable for the 
rest of my life.' 

Qjieen Victoria remained uninfluenced by this cautionary tale. 
She had for some time been considering, as a suitable bride for 
Prince George, Princess Marie, generally known as 'Missy', eldest 
daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh. 2 The Princess of Wales was not 
in favour of such a choice, since she considered the Edinburgh girls 

1 Louis Philippe Albert d'Orl^ans, Comte de Paris (1838-1894), was 
the grandson of Louis Philippe. In 1842 on the death of his father he 
became heir apparent to the French throne. He married his cousin, 
daughter of the Due de Montpensier. In 1873 he agreed to waive his 
claims to the throne of France in favour of the Comte de Chambord. With 
the latter's death in 1883 ^ e became undisputed head of the House of 
Bourbon. He was banished from France in 1886, and took refuge in Eng- 
land. His elder daughter, Princess Amilie, married King Carlos of 
Portugal. His second daughter, Princess H61ne (b. 1871), married the 
Duke of Aostain 1895. She died at Naples on January 20, 1951. 

2 Princess Marie, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh, was 
born at Eastwell Park, Kent, on October 29, 1875. On January 10, 1893, 
she married the Crown Prince, subsequently King Ferdinand, of Rumania. 
She died at Sinaia on July 18, 1938. 


H.M.S. 'Thrush 9 1891 

to be noisy and pro-German. The ultimate decision was influenced 
by Princess Marie's German governess, a formidably anglophobe 
fraulein, who discouraged the proposal. Princess Marie on June 2, 
1892, became engaged to Ferdinand, heir presumptive to King 
Carol of Rumania. 

In July of 1891 Prince George, in his little gunboat the Thrush, 
returned to England after an absence on the North American station 
of a year and three months. He had by then been a lieutenant for six 
years and was already due for promotion. The Duke of Edinburgh, 
who felt that his own professional reputation had been damaged by 
preferential treatment when he was a young officer, had wisely urged 
that Prince George should be promoted only when his natural turn 
came round. It was not therefore until August 24, 1891, that he was 
gazetted Commander: 

'Captain Leicester Keppel', Prince George wrote in his diary for 
August 12, 1891, c came on board to inspect us. Mustered by open, 
Divisions, General & Fire Quarters, Man & arm boats, collision 
stations, out mat, drilled small arm men, made plain sail & furled, 
mustered bags & hammocks & inspected books.' 

The Thrush was paid off on August 23. 


After a short visit to Balmoral and Mar Lodge, Prince George 
crossed to Ireland where he spent a week with his brother who was 
at that date serving with his regiment at the Marlborough Barracks 
in Dublin. In the first week of November the two Princes went to 
Sandringham for the celebration of their father's birthday. The 
Princess of Wales was absent in Russia: 

c ln the autumn of the year 1891,' writes Sir Sidney Lee, d 'domestic 
considerations led the Princess, accompanied by her two unmarried 
daughters, to join early in October her family in Copenhagen; sub- 
sequently she accompanied the Tsar and her sister the Tsaritza to the 
Tsar's Crimean home at Livadia, on what promised to be a long stay. 
The Prince's fiftieth birthday, November 9, was thus celebrated at 
Sandringham in the Princess' absence. Unexpected domestic trouble 
was at the moment impending.' 

On November 12 Prince George developed a high temperature 
and his father brought him up immediately to Marlborough House 
in order that he might receive the most expert medical attention. 
Typhoid was diagnosed and a telegram despatched to the Princess 
of Wales at Livadia, She and her daughters rushed across Europe, 
arriving in London on November 22. The crisis of Prince George's 

1892 Death of the Duke of Clarence 

illness was reached on November 24 and thereafter he began to mend. 
In the last days of December, after seven weeks of serious illness, he 
was able to return to Sandringham. 

On December 3, 1891, the Duke of Clarence had become 
engaged to Princess Mary of Teck. 1 On January 7, 1892, when at 
Sandringham, he fell ill with influenza. On January 13 pneumonia 
set in and at 9.35 on the morning of Thursday, January 14, he died. 

1 Princess Mary of Teck, generally known as 'Princess May', was the 
daughter of Francis Duke of Teck (1837-1900) and Mary Adelaide (1833- 
1897) daughter of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850), son of 
George III. 

The Duke of Teck was the son of Duke Alexander of Wiirtemberg and 
Countess Rhedey, of an Hungarian family. He was born in Vienna and 
served as an officer in the 7th Imperial Hussars. The Prince of Wales met 
him at Hanover at 1864 and invited him to England. It was there that he 
met Princess Mary of Cambridge whom he subsequently married. 

Princess Mary of Teck, who was born in 1867, had three brothers: 
Prince Adolphus (Marquess of Cambridge, 1868-1927), Prince Francis 
( 1 870-1 910), and Prince Alexander, Earl of Athlone ( 1 874- ) . 




The shock of his brother's death He is made Duke of York Learning 
German at Heidelberg He attends the Luther celebrations at 
Wittenberg He begins to take an interest in politics His engage- 
ment to Princess Mary of Teck His family's approval His marriage 
Sandringham and York Cottage The Duchess of York Birth of 
Prince Edward Birth of Prince Albert His life as a country gentle- 
man He goes to Russia for the marriage of Nicholas II His visit to 
Ireland The South African War The end of the Nineteenth 
Century The Death of Queen Victoria. 


THE death of the Duke of Clarence was the first tragedy which 
Prince George experienced. It left him desolate and stunned: 

'I am sure 9 , he wrote to Queen Victoria on January 18, 1892, 'no two 
brothers could have loved each other more than we did. Alas! it is only 
now that I have found out how deeply I did love him; & I remember 
with pain nearly every hard word & little quarrel I ever had with 
him & I long to ask his forgiveness, but, alas, it is too late now!' 

Weakened as he had been by his own illness, the long and 
agonising scene in his brother's death-chamber haunted his memory 
and prolonged the shock. He suffered much from sleeplessness and 
was still only convalescent when he accompanied his parents, first to 
Compton Place at Eastbourne, and thereafter to Cap Martin in the 
south of France. 

The pang of bereavement, the aching self-reproach which 
always accompanies such irremediable disasters, were for him 
intensified by the realisation that his past had been broken and his 
future abruptly changed. All Royal personages must experience at 
moments intimations of chill loneliness, of solitary isolation. Prince 
George was conscious that he had lost the one companion on this 
earth with whom his relations had been those of absolute equality. 
It is not surprising that, during those idle weeks on the Riviera, he 
should have sought to postpone the hour when he must assume the 
leaden cope of responsibility.* 

1892 Created Duke of York 

Now that he had become his father's heir, the eventual inheritor 
of the Grown of England, it was felt that he should adopt some 
territorial title and obtain a seat in the House of Lords. At the time 
when it had been proposed to confer a similar dignity on Prince 
Eddy, Queen Victoria had expressed her preference for a name 
unconnected with any of her Hanoverian uncles: 

c The Queen', she minuted to Sir Henry Ponsonby on March 5, 1890, 
c does not at all wish to revive the title of York or she would have done 
so for her own son Alfred. Let it be Duke of Rothsay or Earl of Chester.' 

None the less, in the birthday honours of May 24, 1892, Prince 
George was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron 
Killarney. He wrote to his grandmother, expressing gratitude for 
this distinction and received a reply dated from Balmoral on May 27: 

'I am glad that you like the tide of Duke of York. I am afraid I do not, 
and wish you had remained as you are. A Prince no one else can be, 
whereas a Duke any nobleman can be, and many are! I am not very 
fond of that of York, which has not very agreeable associations. 9 

On June 17 he took his seat in the House of Lords, being intro- 
duced by his father and his uncle, the Duke of Connaught. 'Fancy', 
his mother wrote to him, 'my Georgie boy doing that and now being 
a grand old Duke of York!' Arrangements were also made to provide 
him with a personal staff. Major-General Sir Francis de Winton was 
chosen as Comptroller of his Household and Lieutenant Sir Charles 
Cust was appointed his equerry, a post which he retained for thirty- 
nine years. A suite of apartments, subsequently called 'York House 9 , 
were assigned to him in St. James's Palace. He was allowed to use the 
Bachelors Cottage at Sandringham as his country residence. 

So far from breaking immediately with his naval occupations, 
the Duke of York at the end of June took command of H.M.S 
Melampus for summer manoeuvres. The weather was rough and as 
usual he was extremely sea-sick; night after night he had to remain 
on deck and for six days he never took offhis clothes: 

'The Flagship', he wrote in his diary for July 27, 'made any number 
of mistakes & we all got anyhow. I hope I shall never be in any other 

manoeuvres Hate the whole thing.' 'I am over-tired,' he wrote on 

August 10, 'feel quite done-up.' 

In September he went for a short spell to Heidelberg, in order to 
study the German language. He stayed at the Villa Felseck with 
Professor Ihne a stout, white-haired, spectacled old man, who 
possessed eccentric views upon English literature and a fussy, 


In Germany 1892 

touchy, argumentative disposition. Two months 5 , the Prince of 
Wales had justly commented, 'is a very short time to learn a lan- 
guage when one is twenty seven/ The Duke of York none the less 
worked all morning and evening at his German grammar and in the 
afternoons he would visit the Castle and the University with Pro- 
fessor Ihne, or sit listening to the band in some beer-garden, in the 
company of Mr Maurice Baring. 6 

His studies were interrupted, and the tedium of the Villa Felseck 
relieved, when he was instructed by Queen Victoria to represent her 
at the golden wedding of the Grand Duke of Saxe- Weimar and 
thereafter at the Luther celebrations at Wittenberg. For the latter 
ceremony he accompanied the German Emperor in the imperial 
train. 'William 9 , he wrote to his grandmother, 'was most kind & civil 
to me. I have never known him so nice. 5 The Qjieen was gratified by 
the accounts she received from her foreign informants of her grand- 
son's conduct and bearing: 

'George', she wrote to the Duke of Connaught, 'has made the very best 
impression abroad on the occasion of his visits to Weimar and Witten- 
berg It will do him all the good in the world.' 

He was now conscious that the fifteen years which he had spent 
in the Navy had afforded him few opportunities to become ac- 
quainted with home politics or politicians. On his return from 
Germany in November 1892, he made some spasmodic attempts to 
remedy these defects. We find him that December dining with Lord 
Carrington, sitting between Mr Gladstone and Mr Asquith and 
having a long- conversation with Mr John Morley. He began to 
attend parliamentary debates, both in the upper and the lower 
Chambers. On February 13, 1893, he heard Mr Gladstone introduce 
his second Home Rule Bill into the House of Commons: c He made a 
beautiful speech and spoke for 2 and a quarter hours, which is 
wonderful for a man of 83.' From his place above the clock he 
listened to the Irish debate that followed. He was himself at this 
period obtaining further experience of public speaking. On February 
6 he spoke in aid of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 
Children and on the following day he received the Freedom of the 
Merchant Taylors Company and had to return a reply. 'I was 
horribly nervous/ he wrote, 'but got through my speeches fairly 
well/ On March 4 he accompanied his mother on a cruise in the 
Mediterranean. It was a sentimental journey. She was by then well 
aware that this was the last occasion on which she would have him, 
as a bachelor, all to herself. 


Princess Mary of Teck 


For the last two years, as we have seen. Queen Victoria had been 
suggesting that the moment had arrived when he should marry and 
settle down. Her anxiety on the subject was naturally increased by 
the Duke of Clarence's death. 6 She is', the Prince of Wales had 
warned him months ago, c c in a terrible fuss about your marrying.' 
His grandmother had broached the subject with him in the previous 
August, and again in December, and had intimated that her most 
cherished desire was that he should become engaged to Princess 
Mary of Teck. His father was delighted by the idea; his mother (who, 
as has been said, took a possessive view of her children) had by then 
reconciled herself to the fact that he could not remain a bachelor 
for ever. On April 17 he left his mother at Athens and returned 
alone to England. On May 2 he went down to East Sheen Lodge to 
stay with his sister, the Duchess of Fife. On Wednesday, May 3, 1893, 
c a lovely day, as hot as summer 5 , he proposed to Princess Mary in the 
garden at East Sheen. Their engagement was announced on May 4. 

The Times newspaper, in a sententious leading article gave 
expression to the general opinion: 

'The predominant feeling, now that a sufficient interval has elapsed 
since the melancholy death of the Duke of Clarence, will be that this 
betrothal accords with the fitness of things, and, so far from offending 
any legitimate sentiment, is the most appropriate and delicate medica- 
ment for a wound in its nature never wholly effaceable. There is even 
ground for hoping that a union rooted in painful memories may prove 
happy beyond the common lot.' 

It is strange to-day to read these hesitant prophecies and to look 
back across the gulf of time to a marriage which for over forty-two 
years gave him both the stimulus of intelligent companionship and 
the repose of unruffled domestic felicity. There was no more loneliness 
for him thereafter; she shared all his burdens and all his confidences; 
she halved his sorrows and enhanced his joys. 

The reaction of his family to the announcement of his betrothal 
was characteristic. Queen Victoria, who with her solid wisdom and 
shrewd insight had for long recognised the Duke's sterling qualities, 
was overjoyed: 

'Let me now say', she wrote to him, 'how thankful I am that this 
great and so long & ardently wished for event is settled & I gladly give 
my consent to what I pray may be for your happiness and for the 
Country's good. Say everything affectionate to dear May, for whom 


Marriage 1893 

this must be a trying moment full of such mixed feelings. But she cannot 
find a better husband than you and I am sure she will be a good, de- 
voted and useful wife to you.' 'God bless you,' she wrote again a few 
days later, 'beloved child, whom I have loved as my own.' 

The Prince of Wales, who was much gratified by the event, 
expressed the not unconventional view that in gaining a daughter 
he had not lost a son. The Princess of Wales, as always, was more 

'Indeed it is sad,* she had written to him on April 29, when he had 
parted from her at Athens, 'to think that we shall never be able to be 
together and travel in the same way yet there is a bond of love be- 
tween us, that of mother and child, which nothing can ever diminish 
or render less binding and nobody can, or shall ever, come between 
me and my darling Georgie boy. 9 

On receiving at Malta the telegram announcing his engagement, 
she replied on May 6: 'With what mixed feelings I read your tele- 
gram! Well all I can say is that I pray God to give you both a long and 
happy life together, and that you will make up to dear May all that she 
lost in darling Eddy and that you will be a mutual happiness to each 
other, a comfort to us, and a blessing to the nation.' 

The marriage was celebrated in the Chapel Royal, St. James's 
Palace, on July 6, 1893. Among the royal guests were the King and 
Queen of Denmark, Prince Henry of Prussia, Prince Albert of 
Belgium, and the Tsarevitch of Russia, 'whose extraordinary like- 
ness to the Duke of York', The Times commented, c may have con- 
tributed to secure for him some additional cheers*. Queen Victoria, 
with the ribbon of the Garter slashing her black bodice with diamonds 
upon her head, drove to St. James's Palace in a state coach drawn by 
eight Hanoverian creams. The Duke of York, who was attended by 
his father and his uncle, the Duke of Edinburgh, wore naval uniform. 
After appearing with the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham 
Palace, he and his wife drove through crowded streets to Liverpool 
Street Station, pausing at Temple Bar to receive an address of 
congratulation from the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen and the 
Commons of the City of London. 'Most enormous crowds I ever saw,' 
the Duke noted in his diary, 'magnificent reception the whole way, 
it quite took one's breath away.' 

The honeymoon was spent at York Cottage, Sandringham. 


The Sandringham estate had been purchased in 1861 from the 
revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall which had accumulated during 

1893 Tork Cottage 

the long minority of the Prince of Wales. It belonged to Charles 
Spencer Cowper, who married Lady Harriet Gardiner, step- 
daughter to Lady Blessington and for a while the virgin bride of 
Alfred Count d'Orsay. The original purchase price was 220,000 
and a further sum of 300,000 was expended in rendering the 
derelict estate one of the finest sporting and agricultural properties 
in the country and in constructing, in place of Mr Cowper's clumsy 
little house, the vast mansion which now exists. 

Even when rebuilt, Sandringham House did not prove large 
enough to accommodate the many guests whom the Prince of Wales 
delighted to entertain. A small annexe was therefore erected a few 
hundred yards from the main building and christened 'Bachelors 
Cottage 5 . When the Prince assigned it as a residence to his son the 
name was changed to 6 York Cottage'. It was, and remains, a glum 
little villa, encompassed by thickets of laurel and rhododendron, 
shadowed by huge Wellingtonias and separated by an abrupt rim of 
lawn from a pond, at the edge of which a leaden pelican gazes in 
dejection upon the water lilies and bamboos. The local brown stone 
in which the house was constructed is concealed by rough-cast 
which in its turn is enlivened by very imitation Tudor beams. The 
rooms inside, with their fumed oak surrounds, their white over- 
mantels framing oval mirrors, their Doulton tiles and stained glass 
fanlights, are indistinguishable from those of any Surbiton or Upper 
Norwood home. The Duke's own sitting-room, its north window 
blocked by heavy shrubberies, was rendered even darker by the red 
cloth covering which saddened the walls. Against this dismal mono- 
chrome (which was composed of the cloth used in those days for the 
trousers of the French army) hung excellent reproductions of some 
of the more popular pictures acquired by the Chantrey Bequest. 
This most undesirable residence remained his favourite home. for 
thirty-three years. It was here that five of his six children were 

For him Sandringham, and the Sandringham ways of life, 
represented the ideal of human felicity. 'Dear old Sandringham', he 
called it, 'the place I love better than anywhere in the world. 9 Here 
he could recapture the associations of boyhood: recalling the edge of 
the warren where he had shot his first rabbit; the corner of the lawn 
where he and his brother had discharged their arrows at a juvenile 
Mr Dalton, scampering for their detection like a leaping deer. It was 
here that, after fifteen years' absorption in the mysteries of the sea, 
he came to learn and love the mysteries of the soil. It was here that 

The Duchess of York 
he experienced his greatest enjoyments and his deepest sorrow. The 
place was hallowed for him by familiar memories; he wa* a man who 
preferred recognition to surprise, the familiar to the strange. Com- 
pared to York Cottage, all the palaces and castles of the earth meant 
little more to him than a sequence of official residences. It was at 
Sandringham that he spent his happiest hours; to Sandringham that 
in later years he would escape from the burden of his official labours; 
at Sandringham that he died. 

The lessons which he had learnt in the Navy (the categorical 
sense of duty, the instincts of obedience and command, the habits 
of responsibility, the orderliness of all his ways) were not blurred by 
his new life as a country gentleman, as head of a rapidly increasing 
family, as sportsman, agriculturalist and farmer. His temperament 
remained that of a naval officer, even when he became a Norfolk 

It may be doubted whether, in those early years of marriage, the 
Duchess of York fully shared his unquestioning acceptance of all that 
Sandringham represented. The strain imposed upon her excellent 
loyalty by the self-effacement, even the dependence, which her 
parents-in-law took so thoughtlessly for granted, has been well 
indicated in Mr John Gore's illuminating but tactful paragraphs : d 

'The Duchess had married into a family which for years had been self- 
sufficient, a family which the Princess's genius for affection had turned 
into something that was certainly a closely guarded clique and was not 
far short of a mutual-admiration society. It was a family little given to 
intellectual pursuits, without much in the way of artistic tastes or taste, 
a family not easily to be converted to any other manner of life than 
that which they had found all-sufficing in an age wherein privilege 
vigorously survived. 

'The Duchess was intellectually on a higher plane; she was already 
well educated and constantly seeking to increase her store of know- 
ledge in many fields beyond the range of the Princess of Wales or 
Princess Victoria. She was full of initiative, of intellectual curiosity, of 
energy, which needed outlets and wider horizons. Their recreations 
were not hers. Their manner of life could not satisfy her ideal in the 
intellectual life of those days. And she was living in a small house on an 
estate which drew its inspiration wholly from the Prince and Princess, 
whereon every smallest happening or alteration was ordered and taken 
note of by the Prince. The very arrangements of her rooms, the plant- 
ing of her small garden, were matters which required reference to 
Sandringham House, and the smallest innovation would be regarded 
with distrust. There was so much that she might usefully have done on 
the estate. Her ideas might have influenced a score of local institutions 
and increased the -well-being of the neighbourhood. But such matters 


1894 Birth of an heir 

were the prerogative of the Princess, whose charm and kindliness often 
made up for her lack of system and order. 

'Sometimes the Duchess's intellectual life there may have been 
starved and her energies atrophied in those early years. For she came 
of a younger, more liberal generation, with far more serious notions of 
woman's spheres of usefulness, and very strong ideas of the responsi- 
bilities demanded of the first ladies in the realm. For many women, 
then and now, the daily call to follow the shooters, to watch the killing, 
however faultless, to take always a cheerful appreciative part in man- 
made, man-valued amusements, must have been answered at the 
sacrifice of many cherished, constructive and liberal ambitions. It is 
fair to assume that the self-effacement which conditions at Sandring- 
ham in those years demanded of a fine and energetic character must 
have fallen hardly on the Duchess; and fair also to suggest that the 
Prince and Princess might have done more to encourage her initiative 
and to fill her days, and with a more understanding sympathy to have 
alleviated the shyness with which she entered upon her ceremonial 

It may have been the memory of the shy subservient years at that 
time imposed upon his own beloved wife that induced King George, 
when his younger sons in their turn came to many, to welcome their 
brides into his family, not only with his accustomed cheery gusto, 
but with a delicate appreciation of the shyness and bewilderment 
which they were bound to feel. 


In the Duke of York's diary for June 23, 1894, there occurs the 
entry: 'White Lodge, Richmond Park. At 10.0 a sweet little boy was 
born and weighed 8 Ib. Mr Asquith, Home Secretary, came to see 

A difficulty immediately arose (similar to that which had 
occurred at the time of his own birth twenty-nine years before) in 
regard to the names to be accorded to the future King Edward VIII. 
The correspondence which ensued is significant, if only because it 
illustrates Queen Victoria's unfading devotion to her husband's 
memory, her eccentric dynastic theories, and her willingness in the 
last resort to subordinate to the feelings of her family her own most 
cherished desires. 

By the hand of Sir Francis de Winton, she sent a letter to, her 
grandson, dated Windsor Castle, June 26, 1894: 

'Darling Georgie, 

'The outburst of loyalty on this happy event is again most gratifying, 
& the way in which the papers and private people have written about 
it all & about me touches me deeply. Considering the many allusions to 


The Queen's wishes 

me & the future of the dear child, I am most anxious naturally that he 
should bear the name of his beloved Great Grandfather, a name which 
brought untold blessings to the whole Empire & that Albert should be 
his ist name. . . . The country would expect that dear Grandpapa's 
name should follow mine in future to mark the Victorian Era/ 

'My darling Grandmama,' he replied from White Lodge on July i, 
'Sir Francis de Winton only returned on Friday from Sandringham, 
when he at once gave me your dear letter & I need not tell you that I 
have given it my most careful consideration. You have always shown 
me the greatest possible kindness, dearest Grandmama, & ever since 
I can remember I have always tried my best to be a dutiful grandson 
to you & never to go against your wishes. 

'Long before our dear child was born, both May & I settled that 
if it was a boy we should call him Edward after darling Eddy. This is 
the dearest wish of our hearts, dearest Grandmama, for Edward is indeed a 
sacred name to us & one which I know would have pleased him beyond 
anything; it is in loving remembrance of him and therefore not painful 
to us. 

'Do not for a moment think that we do not understand your 
feelings about wishing him to be called after dear Grand Papa, of 
course we intend that one of his names shall be Albert; but we hope that 
you will also think of us and enter into our feelings & not press us to 
change our present intention. 

'Both our parents have left the choke of names entirely in our 
hands & have not suggested anything. 

'We are much distressed at not being able to meet your wishes as 
regards our little son's name, but we feel so strongly about it, that we 
are confident that when you realize how dear and sacred this name is to 
us, you, dearest Grandmama, will not cause us the jton we shall always 
feel if our little child is not called Edward.' 

'Of course,' Queen Victoria replied on July 2, 'if you wish Edward 
to be the first name I shall not object, only I think you write as if 
Edward was the real name of dear Eddy, while it was Albert Victor. 
My chief object and anxiety about Albert is that it should mark the 
Dynasty which becomes on dear Papa's succeeding me, like the 
Norman, Plantagenet, Tudor (fr. the grandfather of Henry VII) 
Stewart and finally Brunswick & all will be united in the Cobunr 
dynasty/ 5 

In the end the baby was christened in the drawing-room at 
White Lodge, with the names Edward Albert Christian George 
Andrew Patrick David. It was by his last name that he was 
thereafter known to his family. 

^ The House of Commons passed the customary vote of congratu- 
lation on this auspicious event. The member for South West Ham, 

1895 Prince Albert born 

James Keir Hardie, struck a discordant note by criticising the motion 
on the ground that it 'proposed to lift to an importance which it did 
not deserve an event of every day occurrence'. The public and the 
newspapers were much shocked by this unseemly intervention. 

Eighteen months later, on December 14, 1895, there came 
another entry in the diary: 

*A little boy was born, weighing nearly 8 Ibs, at 3.40. a.m. S.T. Every- 
thing most satisfactory, both doing well. Sent a great number of 
telegrams, had something to eat. Went to bed at 6.45. very tired.' l 

December 14 was not the most tactful day which the future King 
George VI could have chosen for his advent into a world which was 
so soon to become embattled, angry and disillusioned. It was the 
anniversary of the Prince Consort's death in 1861 and of the death 
of Princess Alice in 1878: 

"The terrible anniversary', Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, 're- 
turned for the thirty fourth time. . . . Found telegrams from Georgie 
and Sir J. Williams saying that dear May had been safely delivered of 
a son at three this morning. Georgie's first feeling was regret that this 
dear child should be born on such a sad day. I have a feeling it may be 
a blessing for the dear little boy and may be looked upon as a gift from 

The Prince of Wales urged him to suggest to the Queen that she 
should become the child's godmother and that he should be 
christened Albert: 

c You might like 9 , he wrote to the Duke on December 16, *to call him 
later Bertie, the name I have always gone by in my family. . . . Grand- 
mama is not the least annoyed with you about anything, but she only 
regretted that the little boy was born on the I4th, though we have all 
told her that it will dispel the gloom of that sad anniversary. She is 
ageing rapidly and has always been very kind and affectionate to you 
that I really think it would gratify her if you yourself proposed the 
name of Albert to her.' 

The proposition was made and the Queen was delighted: 

'Most gladly 9 , she wrote, 'do I accept being Godmother to this dear 
little boy, born on the day his beloved Great Grandfather entered on 
an even greater life. He will be specially dear to me. I thank you 
lovingly for your kind letter & will write again soon, but I must end 
now to save die post. V.R.I.' 

1 The initials S.T. do not stand for 'Summer Time 9 but for 'Sandring- 
ham Time'. The docks at Sandringham were always kept half an hour 
fast. King Edward VIII on his accession in 1936 abolished this practice. 


Country gentleman 1895-1901 

On February 17, 1896, at the church of St Mary Magdalene, 
Sandringham, the child was christened Albert Frederick Arthur 
George. 1 


The seven and a half years between the Duke of York's marriage 
and the death of Queen Victoria succeeded each other with placid 
similitude. Apart from occasional public functions and a few official 
journeys, he lived the life of a private country gentleman, un- 
ostentatious, comparatively retired, almost obscure. He was not 
at that date accorded access to official documents or Cabinet papers. 
Had it not been for his frequent and intimate conversations with 
his father, for his occasional meetings with leading politicians, 
his knowledge of public affairs would have been neither wider nor 
deeper than that acquired by any other landowner or sportsman 
from a daily perusal of The Times newspaper. At Sandringham, when 
he was not out shooting, he would play with his children, read aloud 
to his wife, visit the farms, dairy and pheasantries, go round the 
kennels and stables, bicycle in the surrounding country with Sir 
Charles Gust or Mr Derek Keppel, skate on the lake, take his dog 
'Heather 5 for a walk and arrange his stamps. When in London he 
would give dinner parties at York House, to which members of his 
family were invited, together with a few Ministers and diplomatists; 
often in the evenings he would go to the theatre or play billiards at 
the Marlborough Club. From time to time he and the Duchess 
would be invited to stay in the houses of the old and new aristocracy. 
There were shooting parties at Castle Rising, Elveden, Panshanger, 
Holkham, Wilton, Brocket, Studley Royal, Bolton Abbey, Tulchan 
Lodge, Gordon Castle, Drummond Castle, Drumlanrig, West Dean 
Park, Hall Barn and Chatsworth. 

In November 1894, he went to Russia to attend the funeral of his 

1 The Duke and Duchess of York had six children: Prince Edward (born 
1894. Subsequently Prince of Wales, King Edward VIII and Duke of 
Windsor. Married 1937 Mrs. Wallis Warfield). Prince Albert (b. 1895. 
Subsequently Duke of York and King George VI. Married 1923 Lady 
Slizabeth Bowes-Lyon). Princess Mary (b. 1897. Subsequently Princess 
ioyal. Married 1922 Viscount Lascelles later Earl of Harewood). Prince 
Venry (b. 1900. Subsequently Duke of Gloucester. Married 1935 Lady 
Mice Montagu-Douglas-Scott). Prince George (b. 1902. Subsequently 
Duke of Kent. Married 1934 Princess Marina, daughter of Prince Nicolas 
>f Greece. Killed on active service 1942). Prince John (b. 1905, d. 1919). 

1897 A visit to Ireland 

uncle the Tsar Alexander III and the marriage, a week later, of the 
new Tsar, Nicholas II, to Princess Alix of Hesse: 

'I do think', he wrote to his grandmother from St. Petersburg on 
November 28, 'that Nicky is a very lucky man to have got such a lovely 
and charming wife & I must say I never saw two people more in love 
with each other or happier than they are. When they drove from the 
Winter Palace after the wedding they got a tremendous reception & 
ovation from the large crowds in the streets, the cheering was most 
hearty & reminded me of England. . . . Nicky has been kindness itself 
to me, he is the same dear boy he has always been to me & folks to me 
quite openly on every subject. . . .He does everything so quietly & 
naturally; everyone is struck by it & is [sic] very popular already. 9 

In August 1897, he and the Duchess paid an official visit to Ire- 
land. He was so impressed by the loyalty manifested by the in- 
habitants that he urged Queen Victoria to establish a royal residence 
in the vicinity of Dublin. Lord Cadogan, the Lord Lieutenant, was 
strongly in favour of the proposal and the Cabinet approved/ 
The Qjaeen refused to give her consent. The visit none the less 
created a valuable, if transitory, impression; it left the Duke of York 
with a personal affection for Ireland and the conviction (which 
he never relinquished) that, in spite of the politicians, there existed 
a sentimental bond of affection between the Irish people and the 

Lord Salisbury, writing to him from Hatfield on September 9, 1897, 
congratulated him on the 'remarkable success 5 of his visit and on the 
'extraordinary popularity 5 which he and the Duchess had gained. 
'The devotion', he wrote, 'to your person which you have inspired is 
not only a result gratifying to yourself . . . but it will have a most 
valuable effect upon public feeling in Ireland, and may do much to 
restore the loyalty which during the last half century has been so 
much shaken in many districts. 

'I trust it may mark the dawn of a brighter era. v 

In May 1898, Mr Gladstone died and the Duke acted as one of 
the pall-bearers at his funeral in Westminster Abbey. In June of that 
year he assumed command of H.M.S. Crescent for eight weeks' target 
practice in the Irish Channel. This was the last time that he served 
as an active officer in Her Majesty's Navy. He was accompanied by 
his old shipmate, Canon Dalton, who was happy indeed to leave the 
Windsor cloisters as the guest of his beloved pupil for a further spell 
at sea. 

During that last decade of the century the Duke's attention had 
been drawn to certain ominous experiments in human ingenuity. 


The Boer War l8 99 

In the summer of 1895 he was shown the steam flying-machine which 
Mr Hiram Maxim had constructed: 

'It made two runs for me to see. I was in it for one of them; it did lift 

off the ground part of the time. 9 

In July of 1896, Mr Bert Acres, in a tent erected in the garden of 
Marlborough House, displayed his 'photo-electric reproductions of 
real life' which he called the 'Cinematoscope'. The Duke's first 
reference to the internal combustion engine does not occur until 
June 13, 1900: 'Went in papa's new motor car. . . . The man 
managed it extraordinarily well.' 


The nineteenth century, which had opened in stress and glory, 
which had rendered England the richest and most powerful country 
in the world, petered out in a rapid series of small shames. On 
October 10, 1899, the two Boer Republics, the Transvaal and the 
Orange Free State, declared war, invaded Natal, and almost immedi- 
ately invested Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. 1 The successive 
defeats inflicted on the British army by the ingenious Boer com- 
mandos, culminating in the battles of Magersfontein and Colenso, 
shattered the accumulated self-satisfaction of the English and pro- 

1 The main developments in South Africa since the defeat of the 
British at Majuba Hill in 1881 had been as follows: In 1884 President 
Kruger had managed to induce Lord Derby to drop the clause in the 1 88 1 
Convention which safeguarded British suzerainty over the Transvaal. In 
1886 gold was discovered on the Rand and so many foreigners or uitlanders 
flocked to the Transvaal that in a few years they outnumbered the Boers 
by more than four to one. President Kruger, having been unable to stop 
this immigration, proceeded, while taxing the foreigners, to deny them 
political rights. Cecil Rhodes retaliated by preparing a revolution in 
Johannesburg, and by sending his friend Leander Starr Jameson to invade 
the country. The revolution misfired and Jameson and his 600 troopers 
were forced to surrender to the Boer commandos at Doornkop on January 
2, 1896. 

President Kruger continued to make things difficult for the uitlanders. 
In June 1899 the High Commissioner, Sir Alfred Milner, held an abortive 
conference with the President in which he urged him to grant some at 
least of the more justifiable of the uitlander demands. This conference 
proved abortive and on October 9 the two Dutch Republics of the Trans- 
vaal and the Orange Free State delivered an ultimatum to the British 
Government demanding the withdrawal of all British troops and the sub- 
mission of the dispute to arbitration. This ultimatum was rejected and on 
October 10, 1899, war ensued. 


*9 Visit to Berlin 

duced in London a black cloud of depression shot with flashes of 
bewildered rage. Even more perplexing to the British public was the 
wave of gloating animosity which suddenly swept across the Contin- 
ent of Europe. 

On April 4, 1900, a young man of the name of Sipido, intoxi- 
cated by the prevailing anti-British hysteria, fired his revolver at the 
Prince and Princess of Wales while their train was standing in the 
Gare du Nord at Brussels. 'I felt the ball buzzing across my eyes/ 
the Princess telegraphed, 'and saw him coming straight at us/ A few 
weeks later the Duke of York was invited by the German Emperor to 
attend the celebrations of the Crown Prince's coming of age: 

c lt is certainly very disagreeable to me', the Duke wrote to his mother 
on April 23, 1900, 'having to go to Berlin just now & in fact anywhere 
abroad as they apparently all hate us like poison. But William is 
anxious that I should be present. ... & he is the only one who has 
behaved decently to us during this war & I myself am quite ready to be 
friends with him.' 

Apart from the boos with which a few Berliners assailed some of 
the Duke's entourage, the visit passed without incident. 

After the disaster of Spion Kop on January 26, 1900, the military 
situation in South Africa began to improve. On February 27, the 
anniversary of Majuba, Cronje surrendered to Lord Roberts and 
Ladysmith was relieved. On March 8 Queen Victoria paid one of 
her rare visits to Buckingham Palace: 

'Between twenty & thirty thousand people', the Duke wrote in his 
diary for that day, 'collected outside the gates & sang songs & cheered 
tremendously. Before Grandmama left the dining room we pulled up 
the blind & made her come to the window & held candles near her so 
that she could be seen. The crowds cheered again and then quietly 


'Good bye Nineteenth Century' the Duke wrote in his diary for 
December 31, 1900. On the night of January 17, 1901, after attend- 
ing a dinner given in honour of Lord Roberts on his return from 
South Africa, the Duke went with his father to the Marlborough 

'When we got to the Club, Papa told me that darling Grandmama had 
had a slight stroke this morning. He got a cypher telegram tonight from 
Aunt Helena saying her condition was precarious but no immediate 
danger. It makes us all very anxious. . . . Grandmama has not been 
well for some weeks now.' 


Death of Queen Victoria 

On Saturday, January 19, the reports from Osborne House were 
more reassuring. The Duke went down to York Cottage, but -that 
afternoon he was urgently recalled to London. On Sunday, January 
20, the German Emperor arrived from Berlin and on the early morn- 
ing of Monday, January 21, the Duke accompanied the Emperor 
and the Prince of Wales to Osborne. The Queen was by then almost 
unconscious, but she rallied on the morning of Tuesday, January 22, 
and spoke to each of them by name. At 5.0 that evening she again 
became unconscious and at 6.30: 'our beloved Queen and Grand- 
mama, one of the greatest women that ever lived, passed peacefully 
away. 5 



March-November 1901 

Queen Victoria and Princess May Walter Bagehot's English Constitution 
The Duke of York becomes Duke of Cornwall Appointment of Sir 
Arthur Bigge as his Private Secretary The great value to him of Sir 
Arthur Bigge's guidance and friendship The proposed mission to 
Australia to open the first Commonwealth Parliament King 
Edward's objections Mr Balfour's letter His staff in the Ophir 
Their departure on March 16 the arrival in Melbourne The 
opening ceremony His letter to Mr Joseph Chamberlain Visits to 
New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada Return to England 
Effect upon him of this imperial journey The new conception of 
Empire His broadened outlook and increased self-confidence His 
Guildhall speech. 

QUEEN VICTORIA was a sensible judge of human values. She had 
been quick to realise that Princess May, in spite of her early diffidence 
and self-effacement, was a woman of distinctive personality and one 
whose range of interests, intellectual standards and refinement of 
perception would be bound in the end to enlarge, deepen and enrich 
her husband's mind and tastes: 

'She strikes me', the Queen had written to the Empress Frederick on 
May 14, 1894, 'more and more as vy. clever & so sensible & right- 
minded & is a great help to Georgie. Helping him in his Speeches and 
what he has to write. They read together & he also has a Professor 
from Cambridge to read with him. 9 

The Professor referred to was Mr J. R. Tanner of St John's 
College, an authority on naval and constitutional history, who in 
March 1894, had been engaged to instruct the Duke of York in the 
law and practice of the Constitution. It must be admitted that the 
visits of Mr Tanner to York House are recorded with less frequency 
than those of Mr Tilleard, the philatelist. Mr Tanner none tie less 
did succeed in inducing the Duke to read and analyse some at least 
of the sparkling pages of Walter Bagehot's English Constitution. There 
exists at Windsor a school note-book, in the opening pages of which 
the Duke summarised in his own careful handwriting the pre- 
cepts which Mr Bagehot, in his confident way, had laid down for the 


Bagehofs precepts 1894 

instruction and guidance of our English kings. In these few notes the 
Duke crystallised those very conceptions of the functions and duties 
of a constitutional monarch which, when he came to the throne, he 
applied with consistent faithfulness. His summary deserves, there- 
fore, to be quoted in its entirety: 

' ( r ) The value of the Crown in its dignified capacity 

(a) It makes Government intelligible to the masses. 

(b) It makes Government interesting to the masses. 

(c) It strengthens Government with the religious tradition 
connected with the Crown. 

After the accession of George III the Hanoverian 
line inherited the traditional reverence of Stuart times. 

(d) The social value of the Crown. 

If the high social rank was to be scrambled for in the 
House of Commons, the number of social adventurers 
there would be incalculably more numerous & indefin- 
itely more eager. 

(e) The moral value of the Crown. 

Great for good or evil. 

Compare the Courts of Charles II and George III in 
their influence on the nation. 

(/) The existence of the Crown serves to disguise change & 
therefore to deprive it of the evil consequences of revolu- 
tion, e.g. The Reform Bill of 1832. 

'(2) The value of the Crown in its business capacity. The Crown 
is no longer an "Estate of the Realm" or itself the executive, 
but the Qiieen nevertheless retains an immense unexhausted 
influence which goes some way to compensate for the formal 
powers which have been lost; this influence can be exercised in 
various ways: 

(a) In the formation of Ministries; especially in choosing 
between the Statesmen who have a claim to lead party. 

(b) During the continuance of Ministries. The Crown possesses 
fast the right to be consulted, second the right to en- 
courage & third the right to warn. And these rights may 
lead to a very important influence on the course of 
politics, especially as under a system of party govern- 
ment, the Monarch alone possesses a continuous political 

(c) At the break up of a Ministry (but this can be treated best 
in connection with the House of Lords) . 

'Thus, though it would be possible to construct a system of 
political machinery in which there was no monarchy, yet in 
a State where a monarchy of the English type already exists, 
it is still a great political force & offers a splendid career to an 

1894-1936 His conception of Monarchy 

able monarch; he is independent of parties & therefore 
impartial, his position ensures that his advice would be 
received with respect; & he is the only statesman in the 
country whose political experience is continuous.' 
Such were the main precepts \vhich the Duke of York derived, 
with the assistance of Mr Tanner, from his study of Bagehot's English 
Constitution. There are other of Mr Bagehot's apophthegms which he 
omitted to enter in his notebook. He makes no reference to the 
mystical element in Monarchy. 'Its mystery 5 , wrote Bagehot,* c is its 
life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.' 'Royalty', Bagehot had 
written, 6 c will be strong because it appeals to diffused feeling, and 
Republics weak because they appeal to 'the understanding. 5 C A 
family on the throne 5 , wrote Bagehot, c 'is an interesting idea also. It 
brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life. 5 Not all 
of Bagehot 5 s commentaries were so soothing. 'Theory and experi- 
ence 5 , he suggested,* 'both teach us that the education of a Prince 
can be but a poor education and that a royal family will generally 
have less ability than other families. 5 'The occupations 5 , he observed,* 
'of a constitutional monarch are grave, formal, important, but never 
exciting; they have nothing to stir eager blood, awaken high imagina- 
tion, work off wild thoughts. 5 

The Duke of York possessed neither an eager imagination nor 
wild thoughts. His faith in the principle of Monarchy was simple, 
devout even; but selfless. All that he aspired to do was to serve that 
principle with rectitude; to represent all that was most straight- 
forward in the national character; to give to the world an example of 
personal probity; to advise, to encourage and to warn. 

To few men has it been granted to fulfil their aspirations with 
such completeness. 


On January 23, 1901, the day after the death of Queen Victoria, 
the Duke of York accompanied his father to London and attended a 
Privy Council in the Banqueting Hall at St. James's Palace. He was 
the first to swear allegiance to the new monarch: 

'Papa made a beautiful speech in which he said that he wished to be 
called Edward VII. ... I have now succeeded Papa as Duke of 
Cornwall.' * 

1 The title of 'Duke of Cornwall', together with the revenues of the 
Duchy, are hereditary perquisites of the heir to the throne. They derive 
automatically and are not conferred as the tide of 'Prince of Wales' is 
conferred. It was not until November 9, 1901, that King Edward VII 


Sir Arthur Bigge 

They then returned to Osborne. "At 4 p.m 9 , he wrote in his diarj 
for January 24, 'we all received Holy Communion in darling 
Grandmama's room, with Her lying in our midst. 9 That evening th< 
Duke developed a high temperature and was too ill to attend hi 
grandmother's funeral at Windsor. From the window of his room ai 
Osborne he watched her coffin being carried to the sea. 

One of the first and wisest of King Edward's actions was tc 
appoint Sir Francis Knollys as his own Private Secretary and to offei 
to Sir Arthur Bigge 1 the post of Private Secretary to the Duke o 
York. For fifteen years Sir Arthur Bigge had been assistant to Sii 
Henry Ponsonby, the most constant, patient and humorous of Qjieer 
Victoria's servitors. On Sir Henry's death in 1895 he had succeedec 
him as the Queen's Principal Private Secretary. His transference tc 
the household of the Duke of York would thus entail upon Sir Arthui 
Bigge a comparative decline in status and a loss of central responsi- 
bility. He was not a man to allow personal considerations to defleci 
the wishes of his Sovereign. He accepted the offer dutifully anc 
remained the Duke's secretary, counsellor and friend for thirty years 

It is not possible to exaggerate the benefit which the Duk< 
derived from the guidance and encouragement of this sagacious man 
'He taught me', his Sovereign remarked in later years, 'how to be 2 
King. 9 Sir Arthur Bigge was always at hand to prompt and stimulate 
to curb or to appease. He did not hesitate, when occasion required 
to criticise or disapprove. He would grumble that Queen Victoria 

conferred upon his son the title of 'Prince of Wales'. Between Januar 
23 and November 9, his official title was thus 'Duke of Cornwall anc 

1 Arthur Bigge was one of the twelve children of the Rev. J. Bigge, vica 
of Stamfordham in Northumberland. He was educated at Rossall anc 
Woolwich Academy and entered the Royal Artillery. While serving in th< 
Zulu War of 1879 he became a close friend of the Prince Imperial, but wa 
ill with enteric when the Prince was ambushed and killed. When in i88< 
the Empress Eugenie decided to visit the spot where her son had lost hi 
life, Arthur Bigge was chosen to accompany her. Later in that year hi 
visited the Empress at Abergeldie and was introduced by her to Queei 
Victoria. The Queen took an immediate liking to the young officer anc 
appointed him a member of her household. He remained in the service o 
the Royal Family for fifty-one years. 

From 1880 to 1895 he was assistant to Sir Henry Ponsonby. Fron 
1895 to 1901 he was Principal Private Secretary to the Queen. From 190 
till his death in 1931 he was Private Secretary to the Duke of York, servinj 
Tn'm both when he became Prince of Wales and King. He was createc 
Lord Stamfordham in 191 1 . 


1865-1901 Recapitulation 

was the only Monarch he had ever known who possessed a true 
conception of the functions of constitutional Monarchy. He would 
tell the Duke not to look cross or bored at public functions. 'We 
sailors', the Duke answered, 'never smile when on duty/ Bigge 
would point out that the duties of a sailor and an heir apparent were 
not identical. He was angry with King Edward for not at once con- 
ferring on the Duke the title of Prince of Wales. He was angry with 
the Duke for his passionate attachment to York Cottage, which, in 
Sir Arthur Bigge's opinion, was an unworthy residence for the heir to 
so sumptuous a throne. Some idea of the relations of trust and 
affection which developed between them is conveyed by the letters 
which the Duke addressed to him on the rare occasions when they 
were parted: 

'I feel 9 , he wrote on January i, 1902, 'that I can always rely on you to 
tell me the truth, however disagreeable & that you are entirely in my 
confidence. To a person in iny position it is of enormous help. ... I 
thank you again from the bottom of my heart.' e l fear sometimes', he 
wrote again on December 25, 1907, C I have lost my temper with you & 
often been very rude, but I am sure you know me well enough by now 
to know that I did not mean it. ... I am a bad hand at saying what I 
feel, but I thank God that I have a friend like you, in whom I have 
the fullest confidence and from whom I know on all occasions I shall 
get the best and soundest advice whenever I seek it.' 

Fortified by the counsels and companionship of this trusted 
adviser, the Duke began henceforward gradually to equip himself 
for the responsibilities which fate had decreed. 


The chronological method which has hitherto been adopted 
must at this stage be abandoned for more synthetic treatment. In the 
preceding chapters, an effort has been made to describe how a very 
normal, if somewhat pampered, little boy passed through the stage 
of merry midshipman and became a typical naval officer, with all 
the habits of duty and discipline, of obedience and command, which 
the profession of seaman necessarily inculcates. The death of his 
brother and his own marriage (in that the former changed his status 
and the latter provided a new and stimulating influence) ought to 
have produced a rapid expansion. No such an immediate widening 
of his mind or interests occurred: the quarter-deck was replaced by 
the coverts and marshes of Sandringham: the officer of the watch 
became the sporting squire. His long habituation to a confined and 
exclusive domestic atmosphere, the awed veneration which he felt 


Dominion journey I9 01 

for his father, the sentimental devotion which his mother inspired and 
exacted, the uncritical approval which he could always obtain from 
his unmarried sister Princess Victoria, all combined to retard his 
personal development. During the seventeen years when he was 
prospective or immediate heir to the throne, he remained subject, 
although decreasingly, to these family standards. When the King 
was at Windsor, he followed to Frogmore: when the King was at 
Balmoral, he went obediently to Abergeldie: when the King was at 
Sandringham, he returned to the beloved villa on the estate. It was 
not in England, where the part that he played was formal and 
subsidiary, that he acquired self-realisation; this much-needed 
discovery occurred overseas. It is thus of importance to examine the 
effect upon him of his first completely independent mission, of the 
journey which he undertook in 1901 to Australia, South Africa, and 

In the last months of Queen Victoria's reign it had been sug- 
gested that the Duke and Duchess of York should go to Melbourne 
in order to open the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of 
Australia. 1 The Queen agreed to the proposal only on the con- 
ditions that the war in South Africa should have been brought to a 
successful conclusion and that the state of her own health, and that 
of the Prince of Wales, should be such as to warrant so prolonged an 
absence. Lord Salisbury was insistent. On September 18, 1900, a 

1 The idea of the federation of the seven Australasian colonies had been 
mooted as long ago as 1852, but was shelved owing to the refusal of New 
Zealand to form part of a continental union and to objections on the part 
of Queensland and New South Wales. Further efforts were made in 1891 
to form a continental federation without New Zealand but these also 
proved abortive. In 1895 Mr (afterwards Sir George) Reid convened a 
conference of Premiers who agreed that a National Convention should be 
elected to draft a federal constitution for Australia. This Constitution was 
submitted to a referendum in the six colonies in March 1898, but was 
rejected by the electorate of New South Wales. At a Premier's conference 
held in Melbourne in January 1899, concessions were made to New South 
Wales and the Constitution adopted by referendum. 

A Bill giving effect to this Constitution was submitted to the British 
Parliament and became law. On September 17, 1900, a royal proclama- 
tion was issued declaring that, 'on and after January ist 1901, the people 
of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania 
and Western Australia should be united in a Federal Commonwealth 
under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia/ 

The first Parliament under the Constitution was elected on March 29 
and 30, 1901, and was opened by the Duke of Cornwall and York on 
May 9 following. 

Mr Balfoufs letter 

statement was issued by the Colonial Office to the effect that the 
Duke and Duchess of York would visit Australia in the following 
spring in order, in the Queen's name, to open the first Common- 
wealth Parliament and in order c to signify her sense of the loyalty and 
devotion which have prompted the spontaneous aid so liberally 
offered by all the colonies in the South African war, and of the 
splendid gallantry of her colonial troops'. 

In February 1901, after the Queen's funeral, the project was 
revived. King Edward did not wish, so soon after his accession, to be 
parted from the heir to the throne. Lord Salisbury replied that to 
abandon the visit would cause great disappointment in Australia and 
that it was politically desirable that the original plan should be 
adhered to. King Edward protested that c he had only one son left 
out of three and he will not have his life unnecessarily endangered 
for any political purpose'. 

This produced a cogent reply from Mr A. J. Balfour, dated from 
No. 10 Downing Street on February 6, igoi/ Mr Balfour's letter is 
important as containing a lucid forecast of the coming abandonment 
of the old colonial theory in favour of a new conception of imperial 
relations; a conception which acquired impetus in the thirty years to 
follow and in the development of which Mr Balfour himself played 
so important a part: 

c Mr. Balfour', he wrote, 'cannot help feeling that there are on the 
other side reasons to be urged which touch the deepest interests of the 
Monarchy. The King is no longer merely King of Great Britain and 
Ireland and of a few dependencies whose whole value consisted in 
ministering to the wealth and security of Great Britain and Ireland. 
He is now the greatest constitutional bond uniting together in a single 
Empire communities of free men separated by half the circumference 
of the Globe. All the patriotic sentiment which makes such an Empire 
possible centres in him or centres chiefly in him; and everything which 
emphasises his personality to our kinsmen across the seas must be a 
gain to the Monarchy and the Empire. 

'Now the present opportunity of furthering the policy thus sug- 
gested is unique. It can in the nature of things never be repeated. A 
great commonwealth is to be brought into existence, after infinite 
trouble and with the fairest prospects of success. Its citizens know 
little and care little for British Ministries and British party politics. 
But they know, and care for, the Empire of which they are members 
and for the Sovereign who rules it. Surely it is in the highest interests 
of the State that he should visually, and so to speak corporeally, 
associate his family with the final act which brings the new com- 
munity into being; so that in the eyes of all who see it the chief actor 
in the ceremony, its central figure, should be the King's heir, and that 

6 7 

The S.S. 'Ophir' 

in the history of this great event the Monarchy of Britain and the 
Commonwealth of Australia should be inseparably united. 

It is a consideration of much less importance, yet one not without 
its weight, that the absence of the Duke of Cornwall will cause deep 
and widespread disappointment among all classes in the colony.' 

King Edward never really cared for Mr Balfour, whose imper- 
turbable, impersonal and indeed indiscriminate politeness, whose 
bland unawareness of grandeur, filled him with a certain disquiet. 
So peremptory an intimation could not, however, be ignored. 
Grudgingly he gave his consent. 

For the purpose of this mission to Australia, South Africa, and 
Canada, the Admiralty had chartered the S.S. Ophir of the Orient 
line, a passenger steamer of some 6,900 tons, which was refitted for 
the occasion and painted a dazzling white. In addition to Sir Arthur 
Bigge, the Duke was assisted by Lord Wenlock, Sir John Anderson 
of the Colonial Office, and Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace. The 
latter, who was given the temporary status of assistant Private 
Secretary, was not, either in appearance or manner, so Scottish as his 
name might suggest: he was a gifted linguist, a personal friend of 
King Edward, and had for the last eight years been Director of the 
Foreign Department of The Times newspaper. Canon Dalton, much 
to his satisfaction, was invited to accompany the Duke as his domestic 
chaplain. It was Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, and not Canon 
Dalton, who was charged with the task of recording the cruise of the 
Ophir for the instruction of posterity. Those who are interested in the 
details of this long itinerary 1 -will find them fully recorded in the 488 
pages of Sir Donald's The Web of Empire. The remaining members 
of the staff were chosen with equal felicity. 2 

1 The tour can be summarised as follows: Leave Portsmouth, March 
1 6 - Gibraltar - Malta - Aden - Ceylon - Singapore - Arrive Melbourne, 
May 6 - Brisbane - Sydney - Auckland - Wellington - Christchurch - 
Dunedin - Hobart - Adelaide - Albany - Perth - Mauritius - Durban - 
Cape Town - arrive Quebec September 16 - Montreal - Ottawa - Winni- 
peg - Regina - Calgary - Vancouver - Victoria B.C. - Toronto - Niagara 
- St. John, N.B. - Halifax - St. John's, Newfoundland - October 31 
anchor in Solent - November 2 return to London. 

2 The following were attached to the Duke and Duchess of York during 
their mission to the Empire: Head of the Household, Lord Wenlock; 
Private Secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge; Assistant Private Secretary, Sir 
Donald Mackenzie Wallace; from the Colonial Office, Sir John Ander- 
son; Equerries, Sir Charles Gust and Mr. Derek Keppel; Aides-de-Camp, 
Prince Alexander of Teck, Commander Godfrey-Faussett, Lord Crichton, 
the Duke of Roxbuighe, Colonel Byron of the Australian Artillery, Major 

Opens Commonwealth Parliament 

Some conception of the strain imposed upon the Duke and 
Duchess by this eight months' voyage can be derived from the 
statistics which, on his return, the Duke entered in his diary. They 
travelled 45,000 miles, of which 33,032 were by sea and 12,000 by 
land. They laid 21 foundation stones, received 544 addresses, 
presented 4,329 medals and shook hands with 24,855 people at 
official receptions alone. 

The Duke, as has been indicated, was a man of close sentimental 
affections; he felt deeply this separation from his children and parents. 
The King and Queen came down to Portsmouth to see them off; a 
farewell luncheon was given on board the Ophir, attended by Mr 
Joseph Chamberlain and other members of the Cabinet: 

Tapa proposed our healths & wished us God speed and I answered in 
a few words & proposed the King and Queen. I was very much 
affected & could hardly speak. The leave-taking was terrible. I went 
back with them to the yacht when I said goodbye & broke down quite.' 

On that afternoon of Saturday, March 16, the Ophir, attended by 
her escorting cruisers, steamed out of Portsmouth on her journey to 
the Antipodes. They reached Melbourne on May 6 and entered the 
city in full state. The glistening landau was drawn by four horses, 
mounted by bewigged postilions clad in the royal liveries of scarlet 
and gold. Beside the carriage rode two aides-de-camp, their helmets 
and cuirasses flashing in the fleeting sun. Along the route of the 
procession triumphal arches and high stands had been erected; the 
ladies of Melbourne were still dressed in deep mourning for Queen 
Victoria; the handkerchiefs which they waved were little spots of 
white against a sombre monochrome. On May 9, in a huge exhibition 
building, similar to the Alexandra Palace, the Duke formally 
inaugurated the first Commonwealth Parliament. In full naval 
uniform, with his cocked hat upon his head, he stepped to the front 
of the dais and from a printed sheet read to the assembled members 
and senators a message from his father, the King: 

'His Majesty has watched with the deepest interest the social and 
material progress made by His people in Australia and has seen with 
thankfulness and heartfelt satisfaction the completion of the political 
union of which the Parliament is the embodiment. The King is satisfied 
that the wisdom and patriotism which have characterised the exercise 

Bor of the Marines; Officers of the Ophir, Captain Winsloe and Com- 
mander R. E. Wemyss; Ladies in Waiting to the Duchess, Lady Mary 
Lygon, Lady Katherine Coke; Domestic Chaplain, Canon Dalton; Marine 
artists, Chevalier de Martino and Mr Sydney Hall; Medical attendant, 
Dr Manby; Barber, Mr Charles Jaschke. 


Letter to Mr Joseph Chamberlain 1901 

of the wide powers of self-government hitherto enjoyed by the Colonies 
will continue to be displayed in the exercise of the still wider powers 
with which the United Commonwealth has been endowed. His 
Majesty feels assured that the enjoyment of these powers will, if 
possible, enhance the loyalty and devotion to His Throne and Empire 
of which the people of Australia have already given such signal proofs.' 

It had been arranged that, at the termination of the speech, the 
Duchess should press a button which would be the signal for the 
Union Jack to be hoisted in every school throughout Australia. 
Owing to a technical mishap this symbolic ceremony was postponed 
until two days later. When the Duke had finished his speech the 
Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, proceeded to swear in the 

From Melbourne the Duke and Duchess travelled to Brisbane 
and Sydney and thereafter to New Zealand, Tasmania, and Western 
Australia. Throughout the course of this Australasian journey, the 
Duke was much impressed by the spontaneity of the welcome he 

'Putting aside', he wrote to Mr Joseph Chamberlain on June 18, 1901, 
'the hackneyed phrase, which is so often used & conveys so little, I am 
convinced that there exists a strong feeling of loyalty to the Crown & 
deep attachment to the Mother Country in Australia, which I ex- 
pect you can hardly credit. Old colonists with whom I have talked 
admit that this spirit did not exist anything like to this extent, even a 
few years ago. They are good enough to attribute this partly to our 
having paid them this visit, but in my opinion the three great causes 
may be found in: the personal influence of & love for the Queen, the 
South African war, &, if you will allow me to say so, your own inde- 
fatigable work & sympathy for this young country. Granted this happy 
state of things, I feel strongly that now is the time to profit by it. Let 
the Mother Country on her part give to Australia her very best, 
whether it is in Governors, soldiers, or colonists. Australia on her side 
must realise that she is part & parcel of the Empire & must accept the 
responsibilities of that position.'* 

Some doubt was expressed whether it would be wise for the Duke 
and Duchess to include a visit to South Africa, where the war was still 
in progress. Mr Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner were strongly in 
favour of the proposal. It would, they felt, 'have a very good political 
effect and would encourage the loyal party in South Africa, while its 
abandonment would be regarded as a triumph by the Boer press in 
the Colony and their supporters'.* The visit proved in the end a 
triumphant success and the Duke and Duchess were given a hearty 
welcome at Cape Town. Lord Kitchener came down to meet them 

igoi South Africa and Canada 

at Durban and assured them that the war was now nearing its 

C I thought him 9 , the Duke wrote to the King on August 18, 'looking 
remarkably fit & well & he has grown fat. He wished me to tell you 
that everybody from himself downwards is working hard to finish the 
war. . . . He seemed very hopeful, especially having accounted for 839 
Boers last week; he does not believe that there are more than 14,000 
left in the field & they must be precious short of horses. Alas! ammuni- 
tion is still coming in through Lorenco Marques, in spite of what our 
dear good friend Several 1 may say to the contrary. He spoke in the 
highest terms of General French, who is now in command of some 
20,000 troops in the Cape Colony.' 

From South Africa, the Duke and Duchess sailed to Qjiebec. 
After an official visit to Montreal and Ottawa, they crossed the con- 
tinent to Vancouver in the company of the Premier, Sir Wilfrid 
Laurier, On October 19 they rejoined the Ophir at Halifax and after 
a short visit to Newfoundland, reached Portsmouth on November I, 
where they were welcomed by the King and Queen and by their 
own children whom they had not seen for nearly eight months. On 
November 2 they drove in state through the streets of London where 
they were given an enthusiastic reception: 

'Most touching,' the Duke wrote in his diary. 'Got back to York House 
at 3.30. We do indeed feel grateful that it has pleased God to bring us 
home again safe and sound.' 


The effect upon the Duke of York of this wide voyage was creative 
and lasting. Not only did it give him deeper seriousness and increased 
self-confidence; not only did it accustom him to being the central 
figure at diverse official functions; but it led him to abandon many 
former prejudices, to revise old ideas, and to acquire an understand- 
ing of the modern nature of Empire, of democratic imperialism, 
which was broader and more progressive than the assumptions by 
which his grandmother and his father had been guided. 

The British people and politicians had tended, during the last 

1 Several (Luiz Pinto , Marquis de, /<9jj-i$*j2) was one of King Edward's 
closest personal friends and Portugese Minister in London. He spent most 
of his diplomatic career in England, where he resided for twenty-six years. 
He was created a Marquis by King Carlos in February 1 901 . He resigned 
his post on die outbreak of the Portugese Revolution in October 1910 and 
died in Paris on October 5, 1922. He was a most affable man, kind even 
to the least important people, and was affectionately known to his many 
English friends as 'the blue monkey'. 


The new Imperialism 1901 

three decades of the nineteenth century, to take their Empire for 
granted. It ministered to their national vanity, it gave them the small 
excitement of cheap colonial wars and it provided them with markets 
and a source of raw materials. If they differentiated at all between 
what they thoughtlessly conceived as the 'white' colonies and the 
'black' colonies, they assumed that the latter would increasingly 
supply them with riches and that the former, when they came to 
maturity, would fall away. They were not certain even whether the 
'white' colonies should be regarded as a liability or an asset, whether 
the cost to the British taxpayer of defending these distant depend- 
encies, and the long line of communications which connected them 
with the mother-country, was worth either the effort expended, the 
prestige derived, or the markets offered. The 'Little Englanders 9 of 
those days were more numerous and more influential than is some- 
times supposed. 

The South African War (assuredly one of the most important 
events in British history) shattered these assumptions. It showed us 
that colonial wars were not always cheap or easy and that in certain 
circumstances great national effort would be needed to enforce our 
will. It created in many patriotic souls a doubt whether the old 
colonial theory was in every circumstance ethically justifiable. The 
anti-British feeling which it aroused on the Continent, while startling 
us out of our splendid isolation, made us all the more appreciative of 
the moral encouragement and the material assistance which we had 
received from our kinsmen overseas. In the Empire itself the humilia- 
tion and obloquy to which the Mother Country was suddenly 
exposed created a new sense of affection and solidarity. In this stress 
of doubt and emotion doubt regarding the validity of former 
assumptions, doubt regarding the future requirements of our island 
security: emotion aroused by the new sense of kinship, by external 
antagonism, by wounded pride the conception was slowly en- 
gendered of a British family of independent but like-minded nations, 
compacted together, not by any institutional or administrative 
machinery, but by the powerful ligaments of mutual commercial 
and strategic interest, of common sentiment, and of joint allegiance 
to a single Sovereign. Thirty years of effort, and further shared 
ordeals, were needed before Mr Balfour's early vision found its full 
expression in the Statute of Westminster. 

The significance of the Duke of York's journey in 1901 to 
Australia, New Zealand, Natal, Cape Colony, Canada and New- 
foundland might be under-estimated were it not related to these still 

The Guildhall speech 

fluid transitions in the then Imperial Idea. In the Colonies the visit 
of the heir to the throne, coming as it did immediately after the 
shock occasioned by the death of Queen Victoria, identified as it 
was with the foundation of a great Commonwealth, did more than 
crystallise a transient emotion: it emphasised for these advancing 
peoples a new idea of Empire, founded upon a dual loyalty: loyalty 
in the first place to their own nation, and in the second place loyalty 
to the wide and powerful union between the mother-island and her 
now adult partners, as symbolised by a common dynasty and crown. 
The sentiment of solidarity was reinforced. 

The Duke of York was not slow to comprehend these changed 
perspectives, this wider horizon. He had seen governments function- 
ing, cabinets in office, which were composed of men of humble 
origins and simple education. In New Zealand he had witnessed a 
Welfare State in being, in which there was no poor law, in which 
women had been accorded the franchise, in which there was a 
graduated income-tax and a progressive system of social security, 
including old age pensions. Yet New Zealand remained for him one 
of the happiest memories in all his travels and the burly figure of 
Mr Seddon seemed to him the embodiment of practical patriotism 
and solid sense. His conception of democratic Monarchy as an 
institution, detached from politics or parties, which stood in a special 
and direct relation to the peoples themselves, was both widened and 
reinforced. He came to realise and to remember that the Empire, so 
far from being an assortment of geographical areas, was an associa- 
tion of free and rapidly expanding communities, composed of men 
and women of vigorous, progressive and independent minds, who 
were proud of both their own past and future and the shared 
miracle that so small an island should have engendered four young 
nations, set in the oceans of the world. 

In the speech which, on December 5, he delivered at the Guild- 
hall, he sought, within the conventional limits imposed upon him, to 
give some expression to these new ideas. He spoke with emotion of 
the astonishing welcome which he had received in every one of the 
Colonies and of the loyalty to the Mother Country of which it had 
been an expression. 'I appeal*, he said, c to my fellow countrymen at 
home to prove the strength of the attachment of the Motherland to 
her children by sending to them of her best/ And he concluded with 
the warning that, even from the commercial point of view, it was 
unwise to perpetuate the old lethargic habit of taking the British 
Empire for granted. *I venture 9 , he said, 'to allude to the impression 
ci 73 

The Guildhall speech 1901 

which seemed generally to prevail among our brethren overseas, 
that the Old Country must wake up if she intends to maintain her old 
position of pre-eminence in her Colonial trade against foreign com- 

This latter statement attracted much notice in the Press. The 
speech was much applauded and given prominence in the more 
popular newspapers under the headline c Wake up England! 5 

The Duke in his diary refers to this speech, which had in fact for 
the first time brought his personality before the British public, in 
terms of habitual modesty: 

December 5th. 'I made a long speech all about the Colonies and our 
memorable tour, which took 28 minutes. ... It was a 
very interesting luncheon & worthy of the important 
occasion. 9 

December 6th. 'Read to May all the leading articles in the news- 
papers on my speech; they are very civil. . . . We 
received Count Metternich, the new German Am- 




Created Prince of Wales November 9, 1901 His projected visit to Berlin 

Failure of previous attempts to reach an understanding with Ger- 
many The Reichstag attacks on the British Army King Edward 
decides to cancel the projected visit His letter to the German 
Emperor The visit is none the less arranged The Prince's con- 
versation with Prince Bulow The origins of the Entente with France 

End of the South African War The Coronation postponed owing 
to the King's illness The Prince's official duties His access to 
Government papers The Dogger Bank incident The Prince's visit 
to India and Burma Lord Curzon The Prince's impressions of 
India His Guildhall speech. 

ON November 9, 1901, King Edward, in celebration of his own 
sixtieth birthday, created his son Prince of Wales: 

'My dearest Georgy,' he wrote.* *In making you today "Prince of 
Wales and Earl of Chester" I am not only conferring on you ancient 
titles which I have borne upwards of 59 years, but I wish to mark my 
appreciation of the admirable manner in which you carried out the 
arduous duties in the Colonies which I entrusted you with. I have but 
little doubts that they will bear good fruit in the future & knit the 
Colonies more than ever to the Mother Country. 

'God bless you, my dear boy, & I know I can always count on your 
support and assistance in the heavy duties and responsible position I 
now occupy. 

'Ever your devoted Papa, 
c Edward R.I.' 

The Prince and Princess of Wales continued to occupy York 
House and did not move to Marlborough House until April 1903. 
The King tried to persuade them to 'take over Osborne as their 
country residence; the Prince was unwilling to abandon York Cottage 
and Osborne was eventually transferred to the Government as a 
naval college. 1 

1 The Prince of Wales's household as then constituted was as follows: 
Lords of the Bedchamber: Lord Wenlock and Lord Chesham. Comptroller 
and Treasurer: Sir William Carington. Private Secretary: Sir Arthur 
Bigge. Master of the Stables: Mr William Wentworih-Fitzwilliam. 


Anglo-German relations 1902 

It had been arranged that the Prince of Wales should visit Berlin 
on January 27, 1902, in order to congratulate the German Emperor 
on his forty-third birthday. The relations between England and 
Germany, which had once been so amicable, had by then entered 
upon a period of increasing strain. So long ago as November 1899, 
Mr Joseph Chamberlain, in a speech at Leicester, had openly 
advocated an alliance with Germany. Prince Billow, the German 
Chancellor, had replied to this overture by stating in the Reichstag 
that c the days of Germany's political and economic humility were 
over 5 and by coining the dangerous teutonic phrase: 'In the coming 
century, the German people will be either the hammer or the anvil. 5 
This rebuff was followed by a decision which was bound in the end 
to destroy all hope of Anglo-German amity. The German Navy Bill 
of 1900 doubled the 1898 programme and for the first time in 
history created a German High Seas Fleet. 

The British Government, in their desire to nip the bud of naval 
rivalry, decided to make a further gesture of appeasement. Profiting 
by the friendly impression made by the Emperor's attendance at 
Queen Victoria's deathbed and funeral, they suggested that formal 
negotiations should be opened, if not for an alliance, then at least for 
a settlement of all outstanding disputes. It was clearly intimated that 
if these renewed advances were rejected, Great Britain, who could no 
longer indulge in the luxury of isolation, would be forced to draw 
nearer to France and perhaps even to Russia. The German Govern- 
ment preferred to play for time. Prince Billow, as he himself ad- 
mitted, 6 was obsessed by Bismarck's dictum that Germany should 
never conclude any alliance in which she was not herself the dbmin- 
ating partner; he felt that it would be dangerous to enter into any 
understanding with Great Britain unless and until Germany herself 
possessed a powerful High Seas Fleet. Freiherr von Holstein (whose 
insane stratagems and obsessions proved so disastrous to German 
policy) was convinced that in no circumstances could Great Britain 
ever achieve an accommodation with France, still less with Russia. 
He described the British intimation as vollstandiger Sckwindel or 
'utter humbug'. c The negotiations therefore produced no result. 
On October 25, 1901, Mr Joseph Chamberlain delivered another 

Equerries in Ordinary: Sir Charles Gust, Mr Derek Keppel, Lord 
Crichton, Commander Bryan Godfrey-Faussett. Extra Equerries: Captain 
Rosslyn Wemyss and Major Bor. Domestic Chaplain: Canon Dalton. 
At the same date Mr Henry Hansdl, a Norfolk man from Magdalen 
College, Oxford, was appointed tutor to the young Princes. 

I9 02 Chamberlain and Billow 

speech, this time at Edinburgh, in which he made an incidental but 
tactless reference to the behaviour of the German Army in the 1870 
war. This led to a renewed outburst of anti-British feeling in the 
German press and parliament. On January 5, 1902, Mr Chamber- 
lain (whose utterances appear invariably to have grated upon 
German nerves) made a perfectly harmless speech in which he made 
no mention of Germany at all; the Emperor interpreted this reticence 
as implying that the British Government regarded Germany as a 
'negligible quantity'. In replying therefore to the budget debate in 
the Reichstag on January 8, 1902 (scarcely a fortnight before the 
Prince of Wales was due to leave on his goodwill mission to Berlin), 
Prince Biilow took occasion to reprove Mr Chamberlain for his two 
speeches. He accused the British Colonial Secretary of possessing a 
'crooked mind' and applied to him a phrase of Frederick the Great: 
'Leave the man alone: he is biting granite. 3 Other speeches delivered 
in the Reichstag on that occasion were less temperate. Some bitter 
things were said, notably by the right-wing deputy Herr von Lieber- 
mann, about the behaviour of the British Army in South Africa. 
King Edward was incensed by these attacks and decided that the 
Prince's visit must be cancelled. On January 15 he wrote to the 
German Emperor as follows :* 

'In sending my son George to Berlin to spend the anniversary of your 
birthday with you, I intended it as a personal mark of affection & 
friendship towards you, but I must confess since reading the violent 
speeches which have been made quite recently in the Reichstag against 
England, & especially against my Colonial Minister & my Army, 
which shows [sic] such a strong feeling of animosity against my 
Country, I think that under the circumstances it would be better for 
him not to go where he is liable to be insulted, or to be treated by the 
Public in a manner which I feel sure no one would regret more than 
yourself. It is very painful for me to write this, but I fed I have no 
other alternative. 3 

Lord Salisbury and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Lansdowne, 
were afraid that this letter would cause offence and lead to an overt 
and resounding breach; they would have preferred it if the Prince of 
Wales could have been stricken with a sudden diplomatic illness. 
Fortunately the German Emperor decided to ignore the letter, 
pretending that it had been 'mislaid*. The King was then persuaded 
to reconsider his former decision and to allow his son to go to Berlin. 

On his arrival in the German capital, the Prince displayed 
initiative and tact. He did not fully share the prejudices, harboured 
by his parents against the Emperor William, nor did the latter, in the 


The Prince and the German Emperor 1902 

presence of his young cousin, experience those bouts of nervous 
self-assertiveness which his royal uncle was apt to induce. At the 
Bierabend which followed the banquet in the Weiss* Saal, the Prince 
of Wales went across to Prince Billow, shook him warmly by the 
hand, and invited a frank discussion. The German Chancellor has 
recorded 6 that the Prince on this occasion struck him as 'clear- 
headed, sensible and manly' and that His Royal Highness listened 
attentively to a long 'politico-historical' discourse upon Anglo- 
German relations. At the conclusion of this lecture, the Prince 
assured the Chancellor that King Edward was as anxious as ever to 
maintain friendly relations between England and Germany. c He 
only asks you', the Prince said, e to avoid recriminations regarding 
the past and to see that the family letters written in connection with 
my visit here for the Kaiser's, my cousin's, birthday celebrations are 
not made public. We must forget the past and strive only to be 
friends in the future. 9 

The Memoirs of Prince Biilow, entrancing though they are, can- 
not always be taken as historical evidence. The Prince of Wales left 
no record of this important conversation. 'Had a long talk with 
Bttlow' is all that he entered in his diary and such accounts of the 
interview as he may have given to the Kong and Lord Lansdowne on 
his return were not committed to writing. Yet it is evident that the 
Prince's refreshing friendliness on that occasion enabled the Em- 
peror to forget his rancour for a while; to recall the happier affec- 
tions of his boyhood days at Osborne or Windsor, those memories 
which were entwined in his emotional nature and formed a recurrent 
theme in his ambivalent feelings towards his mother's country. 

At the conclusion of the Prince of Wales's visit, the Emperor 
addressed to King Edward a telegram which was amicable and 

'Georgy left this morning for Strelitz all safe and sound and we were 
very sorry to have to part so soon from such a merry and genial guest. 
I think he has amused himself well here. Once more, best thanks for 
his visit.' 

Something far more, however, than geniality and merriment 
would have been required to induce the German Government at 
that date either to come to a general settlement with England or to 
abandon their programme of naval construction. Great Britain 
thenceforward was obliged to adopt a different course. 

Already in January 1901, Monsieur Paul Cambon, the French 
Ambassador in London, had tentatively suggested to Lord Lans- 

1904 The Entente Cordiale 

downe that some discussion might take place regarding French and 
British interests in Morocco. After the harsh rebuff given to our 
overtures to Germany this suggestion was revived. It was then pro- 
posed that the scope of the discussion might be enlarged to include 
not Morocco merely but other areas of Franco-British friction, such 
as Egypt, Siam, colonial frontiers in West Africa and even the New- 
foundland fisheries. In February 1902, a few days only after the 
Prince of Wales's return from Berlin, Monsieur Cambon, after 
further conversations with Lord Lansdowne, addressed to the latter 
a private Note in which the heads of possible agreement were 
enumerated in detail: 

'Next evening', Monsieur Cambon recalled many years later/ 'there 
was a big dinner at Buckingham Palace. I was placed next to King 
Edward who said: "Lansdowne has shown me your letter. It is excellent. 
We must go on. I have told the Prince of Wales about it. You can 
discuss it also with him." 

6 After dinner, the Prince of Wales, now King George, spoke to me 
eagerly of the letter and said: "What a good thing it would be if we 
could have a general agreement!" He wanted to know when it would 
be concluded. I told him that we could not go quite so fast as he might 
wish, but that with patience and goodwill it ought to be possible. 9 

In the spring of 1903 King Edward paid his famous visit to Paris, 
which was returned the following July by President Loubet and 
Monsieur Delcass6. By these conversations and courtesies the 
foundations of the Franco-British Entente were laid: but, as Mon- 
sieur Cambon had foreseen, the final agreement was not concluded 
until April 8, 1904. 

It may be doubted whether the Prince of Wales's interest in 
foreign policy was at that date either so ardent or so well-informed 
as the French Ambassador appears to have assumed. He did not 
possess the cosmopolitan tastes of his father, and throughout his life 
he remained more closely concerned with national than with inter- 
national affairs. His preoccupation with diplomacy had hitherto 
been confined to the uncongenial task of understanding and answer- 
ing the incessant, and often querulous, letters addressed to him by 
his cousin, Prince George of Greece, on the affairs of Crete. 1 The 

1 The island of Crete had been in Turkish occupation since the ex- 
pulsion of the Venetians in 1715. In 1878, the Powers, by the Tact of 
Halepa% obliged the Sultan to grant local autonomy under Ottoman 
sovereignty. The Tact of Halepa* was not always observed by the Sultan, 
and was bitterly resented by the Christian inhabitants, who desired union 
with Greece. Insurrections broke out in 1896 and in 1897 a Greek force 


King Edward's illness 1902 

tribulations of the Greek Royal Family remained a worry to him all 
his life, 


On May 31, 1902, peace was signed at Vereeniging and the South 
African war came to an end. The Coronation of King Edward had 
been fixed for June 26, but on June 14, while staying at the Royal 
Pavilion at Aldershot, the King was taken suddenly ill. He was 
removed to Windsor and by June 23 was well enough to travel to 
London. By that date the preparations for the coming Coronation 
had been almost completed; stands had been erected in the streets, 
which were already gay with garlands and Venetian masts; the 
prelates and Court dignitaries had held their final rehearsals in the 
Abbey; the first batch of foreign royalties had begun to arrive. On 
the afternoon of June 23 the King's symptoms returned: 

'I don't think him at all well,' the Prince of Wales wrote, 'he suffers 
pain & we are getting in despair. . . . Had a long talk with Motherdear 
& Taking about dear Papa, who I fear is worse tonight & we are very 
anxious about him.' 1 

An operation for appendicitis was performed by Sir Frederick 
Treves on the afternoon of June 24. It was completely successful. 
*I found him', wrote the Prince, on June 25, 'smoking a cigar & 
reading a paper. The doctors & the nurses say they never saw such a 
wonderful man.' By June 28 the King was declared out of danger, 
but meanwhile the duty of entertaining and soothing the visiting 
royalties and of performing such public functions as could not be 
cancelled had devolved upon the Prince and Princess of Wales. 

landed near Canea and proclaimed the annexation of Crete to Greece. 
The Powers then intervened and occupied the island. By November 1898, 
all Turkish troops had been withdrawn and the Powers nominated Prince 
George of Greece, younger son of the King of the Hellenes, as High 
Commissioner. His position was unenviable, since he had to cope with the 
Moslem minority, the tutelage of the Great Powers as represented by 
their Admirals and Consuls-General, and an insurrectionary movement, 
eventually headed by Venizelos, for union with Greece. After long, 
arduous and quite meritorious service as High Commissioner, Prince 
George left the island in 1906 and was succeeded by Monsieur Zaimis. 
Crete was finally incorporated in Greece by the Treaty of London of 1913. 
1 Sir Francis LaMng had been Physician in Ordinary to the Royal 
Family for many years and had attended the Duke of Clarence during his 
final illness. He was knighted in 1893 and made a baronet in 1902. He 
died in May 1914. His son, Sir Guy Laking, became Keeper of the King's 
Armoury and later Keeper of the London Museum. 

1904 Vienna Visit 

Great public disappointment and inconvenience were caused by this 
last-hour postponement of the Coronation; inevitably the most 
pessimistic rumours spread in whispers round the world. 

King Edward, however, made a rapid recovery. The Coronation, 
although in a curtailed form, was solemnised on August 9. It was 
followed by a Naval Review at Spithead. fi lt was a magnificent sight/ 
the Prince commented, c & made me feel proud of being a sailor & an 
Englishman. 5 On the following day, August 17, Lord Kitchener 
introduced the Boer generals to King Edward on board the Victoria 
and Albert: 

'Lord K. brought the three Boer Generals, Louis Botha, De Wet, & 
De la Rey, to see Papa. I was present during the interview & also 
shook hands with them. . . . They are fine looking men & were most 
civil; it was an interesting occasion. 9 

This audience was in truth a fitting sequel to a peace which had 
been honourable to both sides and an auspicious prelude to the 
great work of pacification, conciliation and union which Sir Alfred 
Milner and his young men were about to inaugurate. 

The three years which intervened between the Coronation and 
the Prince of Wales's visit to India in October 1905, were crowded 
with public and representative duties. He succeeded his father as 
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales, he was elected Master of 
Trinity House, he was a Trustee of the British and the Natural 
History Museums. In May of 1903 he was invited by the Prime 
Minister to serve on a Royal Commission to consider food and other 
imports in time of war. The deliberations of this Commission, at 
which he was a regular attendant, lasted for two years. 

In April 1904, he and the Princess paid a state visit to the Em- 
peror Francis Joseph of Austria, and were received at Vienna with 
august solemnity. The protocol laid down for their reception has 
been preserved and reads to-day like the ceremonial ordinances of a 
vanished world: 

'At the Bellaria: The First Grand Master of the Household and the 
Grand Master of the Ceremonies. 

*At the Black Eagle Staircase on the First Floor: The illustrious Arch- 
duchesses, who will have been awaiting the announcement of Their 
Royal Highnesses' arrival in the Alexander Apartments. 
c ln the Ketra Dura Chamber: The Minister of the Household and the 
Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Marshal of the Court for Hungary 
and the remainder of the suites. 9 

On the day following their arrival the Prince and Princess were 
offered a Tamily dinner' at the intolerable hour of 5 p.m. The officers 


Access to official papers 7905 

were to be in full dress and the servants en campagne. This was fol- 
lowed at 8.30 p.m. by a Court Ball in the Hall of Ceremonies. The 
royal guests and the diplomatic body were to enter by the Bellaria, 
the other guests by the Ambassadors Staircase. The royal guests were 
to assemble in the Gobelins Saloon, their suites in the Rich Bed- 
chamber, the other guests in the Hall of Ceremonies. Card tables 
were to be placed in the Radetzky apartments, and supper to be 
served in the large and small Masquerade Halls. The formal cercle 
would take place in the large hall of the Palace Library. 'My good- 
ness! 3 the Prince sighed in his diary that evening, 'this Court is stiff!' 

In the same month he w_ent to Stuttgart to invest the King of 
Wiirtemberg with the Order of the Garter. In the intervals his time 
was fully occupied in visiting provincial cities, conferring and 
receiving degrees, opening docks, bridges, and hospitals, or receiving 
and entertaining foreign royalties and visitors of distinction. At one 
moment he accepted, at Mr Balfour's suggestion, the title of Lord 
Warden of the Cinque Ports, but thereafter resigned when he dis- 
covered that he was expected by the Courts of Brotherhood and 
Guestling to convene the Court of Shipway, to take the 'serement* 
and to preside over the Dover Harbour Board. As a relaxation from 
these multifarious duties, he was glad from time to time to escape to 
York Cottage and to the familiar coverts of 'Commodore' and 'Little 

During his journeys to Australia and Canada he had found that he 
was hampered in his conversations with Dominion statesmen by lack 
of official information regarding government policy. Sir Arthur Bigge 
had been instructed to approach Sir Francis Knollys: 

C I quite agree with you', the latter replied on August 20, 1901 9 9 'that 
history repeats itself. The Duke of Cornwall will occasionally com- 
plain of the King for not telling him things, just as the latter com- 
plained of the Queen, and as without doubt little Prince Edward will 
complain in time to come of the Duke. It has been the same thing with 
Heirs Apparent (and generally they have had right on their side) from 
time immemorial and will I fear continue to be so as long as there are 

Sir Francis Knollys need have had no such apprehensions. King 
Edward had not forgotten the disadvantage from which for many 
years he had himself suffered in being denied access to official papers. 
He gave early instructions that the Prince of Wales should be shown 
any foreign dispatches of major importance. From 1903 onwards 
the Prince was also sent the daily telegram sections from the Foreign 

J94 The Dogger Bank incident 

Office and there are many references thereafter to the 'red boxes' 
which accumulated on his desk. He was thus able to follow, with 
inside information, the intricate diplomatic situation which arose in 
February 1904, when Great Britain's ally, Japan, declared war on 
Fiance's ally, Russia. The danger of so ambiguous a position was 
emphasised when, on October 21, 1904, the Russian Baltic Fleet 
under Admiral Rodjestvensky opened fire near the Dogger Bank 
upon some fishing craft from Hull. The Prince was shocked by this 

'I was indeed thunderstruck', he wrote to the King on October 25, 
'when I opened the papers yesterday morning & read the account of 
this outrage committed by the Russian Baltic Fleet firing on a harm- 
less fishing fleet in the North Sea in the middle of the night. It seems 
impossible that individuals who call themselves sailors should do such a 
thing. . . . If they imagined they were Japanese destroyers, all I can say is 
they must have been drunk or else their nerves must be in such a state 
that they are not fit to go to sea in Men of War.' 

The Prince of Wales's reaction to this incident, as so many of his 
reactions, reflected immediately and precisely the thoughts and 
feelings of the ordinary British citizen. Lord Lansdowne on the other 
hand felt that a nautical error which, however unpardonable, was 
certainly not intentional should not be allowed to involve the 
danger of war. The dispute was referred to arbitration, the Russian 
Government agreed to pay damages and public indignation was 
gradually allayed. A crisis by which the Entente might have been 
shattered from its inception was thereby averted. 


It had been decided that the Prince and Princess of Wales should 
visit India and Burma during the winter of 1905-1906. The occasion 
was not in every respect auspicious. The partition of Bengal, 1 which 
had been carried into effect in the previous October, had created 

1 Lord Curzon, as Viceroy, had for long considered that the Province 
of Bengal was too large for administrative efficiency. His original idea had 
been to detach a few districts only from Eastern Bengal and to assign them 
to Assam. During the course of 1904 and 1905 this idea assumed far larger 
proportions and the eventual scheme, as put into operation in October 
1905, detached from Bengal an area of 106,000 square miles, containing 
a population of eighteen million Moslems and twelve million Hindus. 

This action, which was exploited by the Congress Party as an attack 
upon Bengali nationalism, caused great indignation in India, which added 
to the bitterness and disappointments of Lord Curzon's last months as 


Lord Curzorfs resignation 

considerable indignation; and official circles were still riven by the 
conflict between the civilians and the military, between Lord Gurzon 
and Lord Kitchener, which in the late summer had culminated in 
the Viceroy's resignation. 1 

Lord Curzon, with his exuberant zest for detail, had devoted the 
surplus of his astonishing energy to arranging in advance every 
particular of the royal tour. He was mortified by the fact that the 
reception and entertainment of the Prince and Princess must now 
devolve upon his successor, Lord Minto. On August 23, 1905, he 
wrote to King Edward* saying that one of his many regrets at 'this 
enforced resignation which the Viceroy consistently with self- 
respect could not escape' was that it would preclude him from 
personally conducting the royal tour to a successful issue: 

C I am truly grieved', he wrote to the Prince of Wales on the same day, 
'that I shall not after all have the honour of being responsible for the 
entertainment of Your Royal Highness while in India. Circumstances 
or persons whichever it may be have been too strong for me and I 
have had no alternative but to resign. ... I own I shall fed rather 
bitterly when I think of someone else doing the honours of Government 
House at Calcutta.' 

King Edward, with his ready sympathy for personal misfortunes, 
suggested that it would be fitting if the retiring Viceroy were to 
receive the Prince and Princess upon their arrival at Bombay. This 
faced the officials with an intricate predicament, which was resolved 

1 The controversy between Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchener lies 
outside the scope of this biography. On his arrival in India, Lord Kitchener 
had insisted that the Military Member of the Viceroy's Council should be 
subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Ourzon, backed by the 
civilian members of the Council, desired to maintain the old system of 
dual control, being unwilling to place so much power in the sole hands of 
the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Kitchener, finding himself in a minority 
of one, threatened to resign. The Cabinet in London, realising that the 
resignation of Lord Kitchener would have a deplorable effect on public 
opinion, imposed, in a decision of May 31, 1905, a compromise solution 
under which the Military Member of the Council was to be relegated to 
being head of the department of supply. Lord Curzon, in personal con- 
sultation with Lord Kitchener, induced the latter to accept some modifi- 
cations of this compromise. Peace appeared to have been restored, when 
the India Office appointed the new 'Supply Member* without consulting 
the Viceroy. Incensed by this affront, Lord Curzon, on August 22, 1905, 
resigned. To the end of his life he remained convinced that the Cabinet, 
and especially his old friend Mr St John Brodrick, Secretary of State for 
India, had treated him shamefully. After seven years as Viceroy he re- 
turned to England an angry and embittered man. 


I95 First Indian Tour 

without much delicacy of feeling. Mr St John Brodrick, the Secretary 
of State for India, suggested that, after Lord Minto's arrival, Lord 
Gurzon should hang on for a few days at Bombay and be received by 
the Prince c as a private individual*. Sir Walter Lawrence, who had 
been attached to the Prince as Chief of the Staff, 1 and who had for 
five years been Lord Curzon's Private Secretary, feared that this 
arrangement might prove humiliating. He was, he informed Lord 
Knollys,* 'anxious to avoid, what I rather dread, the public break- 
down of Lord Gurzon. He is ill, and sometimes cannot control his 
feelings and a scene might be very painful to Their Royal Highnesses 
and cast a gloom over their arrival.' In the end Lord Minto agreed to 
postpone his departure from England and it was Lord Curzon who 
greeted the Prince and Princess on their arrival at Bombay. When 
Lord and Lady Minto did eventually reach Bombay, they landed 
after nightfall and were thereafter whisked off to Calcutta without 
the customary formalities of reception. 

The Prince and Princess of Wales left London on October 19, 
embarked at Genoa in H.M.S. Renown and reached Bombay on 
November 9. It is not intended to recount in any detail the events of 
that six months' journey 2 or to describe a succession of durbars and 
reviews, of tiger shoots and elephant hunts, of dusty plains and hot 
illuminated cities, of emeralds and howdahs, of opulence and 
squalor. The Prince met many of the more favoured among the 
Indian Rajahs and had long discussions with the British officials, both 
military and civilian. At Agra he was pleased to receive the four 

1 The Prince was fortunate in obtaining the services of Sir Walter 
Lawrence. Sir Walter, who was a Balliol man and had had long experi- 
ence of Indian administration, possessed a wide knowledge of Indian 
problems and a deep sympathy for the Indian peoples. Apart from the 
usual members of his household the Prince was accompanied by Sir 
Pertab Singh as extra A.D.C. Captain Olive Wigram of the Indian Army, 
who was also attached to the staff, remained on in the Prince's service and 
eventually succeeded Lord Stamfordham as his Chief Private Secretary. 
The Prince's former valet, Agar, had retired from ill health and had been 
succeeded by the devoted Howlett, who remained his personal attendant 
till the end. 

8 Their itinerary was as follows: Bombay, Indore, Jaipur, Lahore, 
Peshawar, Jammu, Delhi, Agra, Gwalior, Lucknow, Calcutta, Rangoon, 
Mandalay, Madras, Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, Benares, Gwalior 
again, Quetta, Karachi. They left India on March 19, 1906, and after a 
short visit to Athens for the Olympic games, reached London on May 8, 
1906. A full account of the journey is given in Sir Stanley Reed's The 
Royal Tour in India. 


Copal Gokhale 

former Indian attendants of Queen Victoria who were then living in 
honourable retirement. He also accepted a visit from "the Munshi', 
Abdul Karim, whose influence over Queen Victoria during the last 
years of her reign had not been approved of by the Royal Family: 

'He has', the Prince wrote to his father, 'not grown more beautiful & 
is getting fat. I must say he was most civil & humble & really pleased 

to see us I am told he lives quite quietly (at "Karim Lodge") & 

gives no trouble at all.' 

Towards the end of his tour he had a conversation with Gopal 
Gokhale, at that time President of the Indian Congress Party: 

C I have', the Prince said to him, 'been reading your speech at Benares, 
in which you said it would be better for India if the Indians had a 
much larger part in the administration. I have now been travelling for 
some months in India, seeing vast crowds of Indians in many parts of 
the continent, and I have never seen a happier-looking people, and I 
understand the look in the eyes of the Indians. Would the peoples of 
India be happier if you ran the country?' Mr Gokhale replied: c No 
Sir, I do not say they would be happier, but they would have more 
self-respect. 9 'That may be,' the Prince answered, 6 but I cannot see 
how there can be real self-respect while the Indians treat their women 
as they do now.' 'Yes,' said Mr Gokhale, c that is a great blot.'* 

How could the Prince, encompassed as he was by barriers of 
officials and detectives, hope to penetrate to what Mr Abbott, one of 
the accompanying journalists, described as e the shameless abandon, 
the ineffable filth and sickening misery 9 which lay below?* In the 
dust before his feet some Maharajah would lay his scimitar encrusted 
with diamonds and rubies: such gestures were a formal act of homage 
to the son of the King-Emperor. C I understand', the Prince had said 
to Gokhale, 'the look in the eyes of the Indians.' What did that look 
portend? Were the crowds who thronged to watch him pass animated 
by no more than an expectation of largesse, a sense of festival, or the 
awed excitement aroused by so sumptuous a panoply? Or did the 
myriad masses of India see in him the almost magic symbol of a 
higher justice, the emissary of a Great Protector, omnipotent but 

The Prince, for all his common sense and realism, was not im- 
pervious to the mystery of Monarchy, to the divine responsibilities 
of kings. He was confirmed during this Indian visit in a belief, which 
as has already been suggested hung unformulated for ever at the 
back of his mind, that there existed some almost mystical association 
between the Sovereign and the common people. When he used the 

Indian Nationalism 

expression loyalty' he was not using a word which to him was trite. 
He was specially satisfied by his visit to Calcutta: 

'I must say', he wrote to the King on January 8, 1906, 'that although 
we had very hard work, our stay in Calcutta was a great success 
politically. Our visit too was most opportune, as the feeling was very 
strong against the Government owing to the partition of Bengal & it 
made them think of something else & the Bengalis certainly showed 
their loyalty to the Throne in a most unmistakeable manner. 3 


It is not surprising that, in this atmosphere of general jubilation, 
he should have under-estimated the strength of the Congress Party 
or the immense influence which, under the inspired leadership of 
Mohandas Gandhi, the movement for non-cooperation and passive 
resistance would thereafter acquire. Were not the Rajahs who 
entertained him and the officials by whom he was surrounded con- 
vinced that the progress of Indian nationalism could, by wise policy 
and incidental concessions, be diverted or allayed? Typical of the 
information and advice which he was given, typical even of the 
opinion held by many enlightened administrators at the time, is a 
letter addressed to him after his return by the Viceroy, Lord Minto: 1 

C I cannot but feel', Lord Minto wrote, c that we are at the commence- 
ment of a great change in India. Better means of communication 
are making it easier for the Indian official to run home for a holiday 
and he may consequently gradually lose that touch with the native 
population which used to exist in the old days, whilst, as Your Royal 
Highness is well aware, the political influence of the "Congress" is 
making itself more and more felt. At present, if things were left alone 
here, I do not think the Congress movement is much to be feared; the 
danger exists at home, when a few Members of Parliament, with a 
very doubtful Indian connection, manage to keep the pot of disaffec- 
tion boiling, and to disseminate entirely false views upon the position 
of affairs in India. A Bengali agitation, in India, carries no weight and 
little meaning. In England there is the danger that the British public 
may assume it to be representative of what people at home take to be 
the people of India, in utter ignorance of the fact that the population 
of India is a conglomeration of races, the majority of whom would not 
put up with Bengal supremacy for five minutes. If British influence 
were withdrawn tomorrow, what would become of Bengali ideas and 
all the Bengali eloquence which has lately played so large a part? At 
the same time I am sure it is wise to listen to and be good friends with 
Bengali leaders. I like Gokhale and believe him to be honest, but I am 
sure no one knows better than your Royal Highness that it would take 
countless Gokhales to rule the Punjab and the North West Frontier 
Province, to say nothing of the East of India.' 


The Prince's observations 1906 

These opinions were shared, in the year 1906, not merely by the 
more old-fashioned civil servants, but also by many, such as Sir 
Walter Lawrence, who held progressive views. It is evident none the 
less that the Prince of Wales had come to realise during his few 
months in India that the climate of opinion was changing and that 
it would no longer be possible to proceed upon the facile assumptions 
of Lord Bufferings days. 

There exist in the Royal Archives at Windsor some notes in the 
Prince's handwriting 1 *, in which he summarised his impressions. He 
recognised the increasing influence of the Congress Party and the 
effect which their gifts of misrepresentation was bound in the end to 
produce upon the ignorant masses. 'Naturally,* he wrote, 'this is 
much too big a question for me to go into.' He felt none the less that 
the attitude adopted by the English towards the Indians ought to be 
altered and improved: 

'No doubt', he wrote, 'the Natives are better treated by us than in the 
past, but I could not help being struck by the way in which all saluta- 
tions by the Natives were disregarded by the persons to whom they 
were given. Evidently we are too much inclined to look upon them as a 
conquered & down-trodden race & the Native, who is becoming more 
and more educated, realizes this. I could not help noticing that the 
general bearing of the European towards the Native was to say the 
least unsympathetic. In fact not the same as that of superiors to 
inferiors at home.' 

He returned convinced that the Indian Civil Servants, from the 
Viceroy downwards, were demonstrably over-worked and that their 
numbers and conditions of service should be increased and amelior- 
ated. He deplored the friction between the military and civilian 
branches of the administration: 

'The Civilian regards the Soldier as an inferior being & says he governs 
the country. But where would he be without the soldier? I think this 
feeling has certainly increased since Lord Curzon's viceroyalty, as his 
actions never showed sympathy with the Army.' 

He was particularly concerned with the attitude adopted by the 
Government to the native princes. He realised that the word 'native' 
was an offensive term and one which should be discarded from the 

"The Ruling Chiefi', he wrote, 'ought to be treated with greater tact & 
sympathy, more as equals than inferiors. . . , They should no longer be 
treated as school boys, but even consulted by lie Govt. on matters 
which concern their States individually or as a whole. Why not a 
Council of all the Chiefs, presided over by the Viceroy, which would 

1906 ' Wider Sympathy 9 

bring them together and enable them to know each other's views? 
Most important that the Resident or Political Officer should remain as 
long as possible, so that he can become the personal friend of the Chief 
& thereby have influence over him. 9 

Under the guidance of Lord Kitchener (for whom he had a warm 
personal affection and whom he deeply admired as a strong man & a 
soldier') the Prince had devoted much attention to the Indian Army. 
In a long private letter which he addressed to the Commander-in 
Chief before his departure he urged him to pay special attention to 
the relations between the Indian regiments and their British officers 
and above all to take steps to improve the conditions of pay and 
service of the Indian private soldier. 

In the speech which on his return to London he made at the 
Guildhall on May 17, 1906, the Prince endeavoured, as tactfully as 
possible, to convey some of the impressions he had received and the 
ideas which he had formulated. He appealed for 'a wider sympathy' 
on the part of the British administrators. Mr John Morley, who had 
by then succeeded Mr St John Brodrick as Secretary of State for 
India, and to whom he submitted the text of his speech in advance, 
was strongly in favour of this appeal: 

C I have thought 9 , he wrote to the Prince on May 14, 'most carefully as 
to the words "wider sympathy" and I am bound to express my dear 
opinion that it will be a great pity if they are altered by a single letter. 
They will have an admirable effect in every quarter and among all 
classes in India. I regard them as a splendid watchword and I for one 
shall consider such a watchword a real service to good government.' 

Undoubtedly this visit to India and Burma created an effect. 
The letters which he received on his return have a ring of more than 
conventional congratulation. The Viceroy assured him that the visit 
had done 'untold good*. Lord Kitchener could not speak too highly 
of the impression which the Prince's overt sympathy and solicitude 
had created in all ranks of the Indian Army, and the Secretary of 
State expressed the view that c no piece of national duty was ever 
more admirably performed'. 

The Prince of Wales never forgot the impression made upon him 
by 'this wonderful and fascinating country'. India thereafter was no 
mere name to him, but a word alive with many shining associations. 



Mr A. J. Balfour and the problems of the Conservative Party The 1902 
Education Act Chinese Labour Ireland and Mr George Wynd- 
ham Tariffs and Free Trade Mr Balfour resigns and Sir Henry 
Campbell-Bannerman becomes Prime Minister Composition of the 
new Liberal Government The General Election of 1906 Views of 
King Edward and the Prince of Wales The Prince on his return 
from India resumes his duties The wedding of King Alfonso and 
Princess Ena The Prince of Wales's interest in questions of Home 
Defence His relations with King Edward His visits to Germany 
and Paris His mission to Canada Difficulties of the Liberal 
Government The Birrell Education Bill The Licensing Bill 
The Irish Councils Bill The Dreadnought controversy The situation 
abroad Germany's attempts to divide France and England 
Mr Lloyd George His 1909 Budget The conflict between the two 
Houses of Parliament The Parliament Bill Death of King Edward. 

THE Prince of Wales returned from India on May 8, 1906, to find 
that during his absence the political situation in England had under- 
gone a change. The Conservative, or Unionist, Party, after holding 
office for eleven years, had been severely defeated in the General 
Election of January and the control of policy had passed into the 
hands of the Liberals and their supporters of the left. This change 
proved deeper and more durable than the customary alternations of 
power between one party and the other. England was entering upon 
a period of transition. The age of unrest, which had lasted from 1760 
to 1848, had been succeeded by half a century of comparative 
acquiescence; the General Election of 1906 marks the beginning of a 
new and prolonged period of national and international disquiet. 
The revolt of the internal and external proletariat had begun. 

Mr Arthur Balfour, who in July 1902, succeeded Lord Salisbury 
as Conservative Prime Minister, had shown himself a dexterous 
rather than a compelling leader. His patrician temperament rendered 
him unsympathetic to the cruder men who were by then ousting the 
old territorial aristocracy from the control of the Conservative Party. 
His philosophic aloofness had induced in him the habit of mind, so 
dangerous in any politician, of being interested in both sides of a 

1903 Tariff reform 

case. It was not that he lacked the courage of his convictions: few 
statesmen have manifested such physical and moral audacity: it was 
rather that he classed convictions with deliberate forms of belief and 
much disliked all deliberate forms of belief. Moreover he was un- 

The Education Act of 1902 had aroused the Nonconformists to 
unreasonable but passive resistance and had greatly fortified the 
unity and the faith of the Liberals. A seemingly incidental ordinance 
passed by the Transvaal Legislative Council in 1903, providing for 
the introduction of 'unskilled non-European labourers', had pro- 
foundly shocked the conscience of the Liberal Party. The cry of 
'Slavery' and 'Chinese Labour' echoed through the land. The 
resignation of the Irish Secretary, Mr George Wyndham, on the 
issue of 'devolution 9 convinced the experts that Mr Balfour had, 
owing to inattention, missed a unique occasion for a lasting Irish 
settlement; and suggested to those who did not pretend to under- 
stand the Irish problem that he had not displayed unshaken loyalty, 
consistency, or resolution. Yet these were but minor misfortunes 
compared with the dissension created within the Conservative Party 
by Mr Joseph Chamberlain's Tariff Reform League. 

Mr Chamberlain had returned from a visit to South Africa in 
1902 with the inspired conviction that England could no longer 
remain a small island isolated off the peninsula of Europe and must 
in some way federate with her Colonies overseas. He realised that 
before so difficult a political compact could be achieved it would be 
necessary (on the analogy of the unification of Germany), to adopt a 
Zpllverein or customs union. In a speech which he delivered at 
Birmingham on May 15, 1903, he advocated a complete abandon- 
ment of the traditional policy of Free Trade. Colonial products 
should henceforward be given preference in the home market and 
Great Britain should place herself in the position to impose retali- 
atory duties against aU foreign countries who erected tariff barriers 
against British goods. Mr Balfour, by adopting a detached attitude 
and by indulging only in the most Delphic utterances on the subject, 
was, for a few months at least, able to defer a rupture. In September 
1903, matters came to a head. Mr Chamberlain resigned from the 
Cabinet because he was unable to obtain united support for his new 
policy; three of the Free Trade ministers also resigned because they 
could not induce Mr Balfour openly and finally to repudiate the 
heresy of Protection. Mr Chamberlain thereafter founded the Tariff 
Reform League and conducted a national campaign with vigour and 

Mr Balfour resigns I95 

persistence until stricken down by illness in July 1906. Meanwhile 
Mr Balfour was able, with remarkable agility, to keep his party and 
his Cabinet together until the autumn of 1905. On November 21 of 
that year Mr Chamberlain, who was becoming impatient, insisted 
that the electoral platform of the by now rent Unionists should be a 
full and unreserved programme of tariff reform. Mr Balfour, al- 
though the Conservatives still retained a majority in Parliament of 
68, 1 thereupon handed to King Edward the resignation of his 
Government without asking for a dissolution. On December 5, 1905, 
the King sent for Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the leader of the 
Liberal Party, and invited him to form an administration. 

The Liberal Cabinet of 1905 contained many of the most gifted, 
and some of the most dynamic, personalities that have ever served 
the State. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, disregarding the advice 
of his doctor, insisted upon assuming the dual function of Prime 
Minister and Leader of the House. Mr Asquith became Chancellor 
of the Exchequer. The post of Foreign Secretary was at first offered 
to Lord Cromer and, on his refusal, given to Sir Edward Grey. 
Lord Crewe became Lord President and Mr Herbert Gladstone 
Home Secretary. Mr John Morley took the India Office and Mr 
Haldane the War Office. Lord Tweedmouth became First Lord of 
the Admiralty and Mr Augustine Birrell President of the Board of 
Education. The post of Irish Secretary was assumed by Mr James 
Bryce. Mr John Burns, who, although of working class origin, had 
adhered to the Liberal Party, became President of the Local Govern- 
ment Board. Mr Lloyd George (at that date known to the public 
mainly as an audacious pro-Boer) received the Board of Trade. 
Mr Winston Churchill became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for 
the Colonies under Lord Elgin. 

The members of this new Cabinet had not, during their long 
years in opposition, manifested any subservient regard for the 
traditional elements of the British Constitution. 'Certainly,' writes 
Sir Sidney Lee fl with characteristic avoidance of exaggeration, 'no 

1 The figures for the General Election of September 1900, known as 
'The Khaki Election 9 , are given by the Constitutional Year Book as 

Conservatives 334 Liberals 185 

Liberal Unionists 68 Irish 82 

Labour i 

402 268 

Unionist majority over all parties, 134. 


The Liberal victory 
distinctive respect for royalty coloured the creed of the party which 
now took office. 5 Mr John Burns, in the past, had been a formidable 
agitator, a founder of the Social Democratic Federation, a hero of the 
Trafalgar Square demonstration of February 8, 1886. And Mr Lloyd 
George was known to hold decided views regarding landlords in 
general and the House of Lords in particular. King Edward none the 
less, having a warm personal esteem for Sir Henry Campbdl-Banner- 
man, remained unperturbed: 

'It is certainly', he wrote to the Prince of Wales on December 15, 1905, 
'a strong Government with considerable brain power. Let us only 
hope that they will work for the good of the country & indeed the 
Empire. Sir E. Grey will I hope follow in the footsteps of Lord Lans- 
downe in every respect. Lord Tweedmouth should make a good First 
Lord & takes the greatest interest in his appointment. Mr Haldane 
with sound common sense & great powers of organizing ought to make 
an excellent War Minister, which is much needed as his predecessor 
was hopeless." 

This sensible appraisal of the qualities of the new Government 
crossed a letter written by the Prince to his father from Amritsar on 
December 1 1 : 

C I have just heard the names of the new Cabinet. Fancy John Burns 
being in it! He may do well, but he will require a lot of looking after. 
Winston Churchill, I see, is Under Secretary for the Colonies, Lord 
Elgin will have to look after him! Mr Haldane at the War Office will 
have his work cut out for him. I wonder whether he will produce 
some new scheme. Anyhow he is an able man & a great Imperialist & 
will not allow the Army to be cut down & will be very useful on the 
Defence Committee. 9 

On January 8, 1906, Parliament was dissolved. The General 
Election which followed was the most dramatic in English parlia- 
mentary history since the passage of the First Reform Bill. The 
Liberals and their allies gained a majority of 356 against the Con- 
servatives. 1 As many as 53 Labour members were elected, of whom 
twenty-nine were sponsored by the Labour Representation Com- 
mittee and were as such pledged to vote as an independent party. 2 

1 The actual figures were: Government, Liberals 377, Irish Nationalists 
83, Labour members 53; Opposition, Conservatives 132, Liberal Unionists 
25. Thus the Liberals, even without the support of the Irish and Labour 
members, had a clear majority over all parties of 84. 

2 The first two avowed representatives of the working classes to be 
elected to Parliament were Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt who 
were returned in 1874. They did not constitute an independent group but 
were attached to the left wing of the Liberal Party. In 1892 two 'Inde- 


The Madrid wedding 1906 

The news reached the Prince of Wales while he was nagivating the 
Irrawaddy River in the S.S. Japan: 

6 I see', he wrote to the King on January 20, 'that a great number of 
Labour members have been returned which is rather a dangerous 
sign, but I hope they are not all Socialists. 9 

Mr Balfour (who had himself been beaten in East Manchester, a 
seat he had held for twenty-one years) interpreted the Labour 
portent with even greater prescience: 

'We have here to do with something more important than the swing of 
the pendulum or all the squabbles about Free Trade and Fiscal Re- 
form. We are face to face (no doubt in a milder form) with the 
Socialist difficulties which loom so large on the Continent. Unless I am 
greatly mistaken the election of 1906 inaugurates a new era.' 6 

Mr Balfour was not greatly mistaken. 


Undeterred by these first presages of silent revolution, the Prince 
of Wales on his return from India resumed his representative duties 
and the familiar round of public functions. In May of 1906 he 
represented the King at the wedding of his cousin, Princess Ena of 
Battenberg, to King Alfonso XIII of Spain. The coach in which, 
after the ceremony, he and the Princess of Wales drove from the 
church to the Royal Palace was last but three in the procession. It 
was followed by that bearing Princess Beatrice and Queen Cristina, 
mother of King Alfonso. Thereafter came the empty cache de respeto, 
and finally the state coach, surmounted by a golden crown and 
drawn by six befeathered horses, Jn which the bride and bridegroom 
were alone. The procession had reached almost the end of the Calle 
Mayor when a bomb was thrown from an upper window of No. 88 
by the anarchist Mateo Morral. Spectators on the balconies and in 
the street below were killed or wounded by the explosion and Qjieen 

pendent Labour* candidates (John Burns and Keir Hardie) were returned. 
Burns thereafter joined the Liberal party and Keir Hardie in 1893 started 
the 'Independent Labour Party* at Bradford. The Labour Party proper 
was inaugurated at a meeting held on February 27, 1900, in the Memorial 
Hall, Farringdon Street, when it was decided to establish *a distinct 
Labour Group in Parliament with its own whips'. The Labour Repre- 
sentation Committee was at the same time constituted to organize the 

Of the 53 Labour members elected in 1906, twenty-nine belonged to 
the Independent Labour Party and twenty-four were affiliated to the 
Liberal Party and known as 'Lib-Labs'. 


I9 06 The Home Fleet 

Ena's wedding dress was slashed by flying glass and spattered with 
blood. The British Ambassador, Sir Maurice de Bunsen, who had 
paused to watch the procession from an adjoining house, together 
with members of his staff and officers of King Alfonso's British regi- 
ment, the 1 6th Lancers, were the first to reach the shattered coach 
and to help King Alfonso and his bride to alight. They then walked 
beside the cache de respeto, into which the King and Queen had been 
transferred, until it reached the courtyard of the palace. The Prince 
of Wales, on hearing the explosion, had assured the Princess that it 
was the first gun of an artillery salute. The King and Queen, on 
entering the palace, were too dazed to realise what had actually 
occurred. It was from the Ambassador that the Prince of Wales ob- 
tained the first coherent account. 

King Alfonso and Queen Ena quickly regained their composure 
and were able thereafter to take part in the functions which had 
been arranged. On the night of June i there was a gala banquet, 
followed by a reception which was attended by some five thousand 

'Very hot affair 9 , the Prince wrote in his diary, *& tiring; much talking, 
bowing & clicking of spurs. . . . We walked through all the rooms, the 
heat . . . was awful & every window shut. Had some supper & walked 
back through the rooms; smell even worse. Got to bed at 12.0 mightily 

The Prince, although always prepared to perform efficiently any 
functions demanded of him, did not share his father's taste for 
ceremony. He preferred fresh air. 

In the following month the Prince represented his father at a less 
inauspicious ceremony. He went to Norway to attend the Coronation 
at Trondhjem of his brother-in-law, the King of Norway. 

During these, the last few years before his accession, the Prince of 
Wales became increasingly preoccupied with the problems of 
Imperial and Home defence. In the autumn of 1906 he had been 
perplexed by the decision of the Government to withdraw certain 
units from the Mediterranean and Atlantic squadrons for service 
with the newly created Home Fleet. His anxiety on this subject pro- 
duced a long and characteristic letter from his former chief, Admiral 
Sir John Fisher, at that time First Sea Lord, urging the necessity of 
what he called an escadre d'tlite to guard our coasts: 4 

'Our only possible enemy is Germany. Germany keeps her whole 
Fleet always concentrated within a few hours of England. We must 
therefore keep a Fleet twice as powerful within a few hours of Ger- 


Expanding interests 7907 

many. . . . The politicians and the diplomatists will not be the people 
the public will hang if the British Navy fails to annihilate the whole 
German Fleet and gobble up every single one of these 842 German 
merchant steamers now daily on the Ocean! NO!! it will be the Sea 
Lords!! Admiral Bridgeman (about the best Admiral we have) is to 
be Commander in Chief of this new Home Fleet, with his headquarters 
at the Nore and his cruising ground the North Sea where the fight mill 
be!! perhaps off Heligoland, which was won by the sword and given 
up by the pen.' 

Although his interests and experience were predominantly naval, 
the Prince also took an active interest in Lord Roberts' plan for the 
provision of some territorial force for home defence in the event of 
invasion. He did not agree with the views of those who held that, so 
long as we retained the command of the seas, there could be no 
possible danger of any hostile landing upon our coasts: 

'I do not', he wrote to Lord Roberts,* 'agree with the opinions ex- 
pressed by those who belong to the "Blue-Water School" . . . Whether 
an invasion of England by Germany is possible or not must be greatly 
a matter of opinion, but in any case I feel as strongly as you do that it 
is an imperative duty that we should maintain an Army capable of 
successfully resisting any attack, whether in the form of a raid or a 
serious invasion.' 

He would discuss such problems with the Cabinet Ministers and 
senior officers with whom he was now in frequent contact. Lord 
Esher, in a letter to King Edward of March 28, 1907,' describes a 
typical dinner party at the Marlborough Club, at which the Prince 
was invited to meet Mr Haldane, General Sir William Nicholson, 
General Douglas Haig, and Colonel Repington: 

'What struck Lord Esher . . . was the sober and thoughtful manner in 
which the Prince expressed evidently carefully considered opinions. 
That men of that kind should be impressed is important and useful. 
There was no exaggeration of phrase or idea, but sound common 
sense, coupled with almost shrewd appreciation of the various problems, 
both naval and military. H.R.H. not only showed technical knowledge, 
but a power of clear exposition which astonished Mr Haldane. 

'Viscount Esher feels sure that Your Majesty would have been 
proud and pleased to see the effect produced upon the Prince's hearers 
and to have heard their observations after H.R.H. had left.' 

It was in truth an encouragement to King Edward in his declin- 
ing years to realise that the Prince was taking so serious an interest in 
public affairs and developing a mature judgement. From time to 
time, from the wealth of his worldly wisdom, the King would im- 
part, both orally and in writing, incidental items of sound practical 


His German regiment 

advice. He exhorted his son to be regular in his attendance in the 
House of Lords and frequently to listen to debates in the House of 
Commons. He warned him, since the Scots were a proud and sensi- 
tive race, not to use the word 'English' when he meant 'British'. He 
advised him, when in Paris, to visit the Mus6e Carnavalet, but not 
the Infanta Eulalie. 

The closing years of King Edward's reign, which are often 
represented as gay, opulent and garish, were in fact darkened by the 
gathering clouds of external menace and internal dissension. In the 
moods of despondency which would often afflict him the King would 
find comfort in the thought that his heir and successor possessed such 
solid virtues and so sound a head: 

Lord Esher, when writing to King George on the day of Kong Edward's 
funeral, recalled: 'the many occasions on which the King spoke to me 
of Your Majesty, and always with that peculiar look which he had 
half smile, and half pathos and that softening of the voice, when he 
spoke of those he loved. He used to say the words "my son" in quite a 
different tone from any which were familiar to me in the many tones 
of his voice.'* 

It must be realised that King Edward, in the final phase, was a 
perplexed and apprehensive man. 


The German Emperor's insatiable sensitiveness did not allow him 
to remain satisfied for long with the visit which the Prince of Wales 
had paid in 1902. He began to complain to the British Military 
attach^ that the Prince seemed reluctant to come again to Berlin and 
to hint that his failure to visit the German regiment of which he had 
been appointed Colonel was causing comment and offence. These 
remarks were passed on to Lord Knollys by Sir Frank Lascelles, the 
British Ambassador in Berlin. The Prince showed resentment: 

'What he says', he wrote to Lord Knollys,* 'about my reluctance to 
go to Berlin & that I have not yet paid a visit to my regiment, although 
I have already been Colonel of it for three years, is bosh. It is a pity 
that the Emperor should always go out of his way to find fault & make 
complaints. I had no wish whatever to become Col. of a German 
Regiment; that was forced upon me, & because I have not yet had an 
opportunity of seeing it, it is continually rammed down one's throat. 
Although I like Lascelles very much, I fear he has become too German 
in his ideas for my taste.' 

None the less in March 1908 the Prince travelled obediently to 
Germany and inspected his regiment which was at the time stationed 

D 97 

Quebec visit 1908 

in Cologne. He was obliged to put on a German uniform and to 
address a few words of rudimentary German to the officers and men. 
As compensation for this uncongenial duty he allowed himself a few 
days in Paris on his return journey, staying at the Hotel Bristol. He 
lunched with President Falli&res at the Elys6e ('Food moderate & 
tepid') and had conversations with Monsieur Glemenceau and other 
French politicians. Mr Reginald Lister, at that time Counsellor of 
the British Embassy in Paris, and a man of many worlds, succeeded 
in persuading him to indulge in an uncharacteristic experiment and 
to sample the night life of Paris: 

'Went to see "Occupe-toi d'Amdlie" the hottest thing I have ever seen 
on the stage. Then to the Bal Tabarin & the Abbaye at Montmartre & 
other places. Bed at 3.30.' 

In July of 1908 he paid a flying visit to Quebec in order to 
inaugurate the Plains of Abraham as a National Park. He was on this 
occasion unaccompanied by the Princess and travelled to Canada 
and back in H.M.S. Indomitable, a new high-powered cruiser, fitted 
with eight 12" guns. His obvious enjoyment of the occasion, the 
immense trouble that he took to treat the French Canadians as 
estimable fellow-citizens, the sincere and sensible speeches which he 
delivered both in French and English, combined to create an 
unexpected effect: 

"The Prince and people', wrote Lord Grey, the Governor-General, to 
the King on July 31, 1908,* e have been delighted with each other and 
have enthused each other. The Prince of Wales has taught the people 
of Quebec how to cheer. ... It seemed to me, as the troops with 
soldierly smartness and precision marched past the Heir to the Throne 
that Canada had had suddenly revealed to her, and on the Plains of 
Abraham, the consciousness of her manhood. 9 'I believe', wrote Lord 
Grey to the Prince himself, 'that the week just passed will be looked 
back upon in the history of Canada, as an occasion on which a 
tendency was given to the current of the National life, which will help 
to widen the outlook, enlarge the horizon and dignify and ennoble the 
status of every Canadian.'* 

The Prince's own summary of this undoubted triumph was less 

'I am indeed thankful', he wrote in his diary, 'that all the functions & 
ceremonies are over & that they went off* so well. It was indeed a 
strenuous week, but I hope my visit has done good, especially to im- 
prove the relations between the English & French Canadians, which 
have never been so good as they are now.' 

1908 Death of Campbell-Bannerman 

During his return journey in H.M.S. Indomitable, the pages of the 
diary do in fact display a certain elation. After all, he was at sea 
again; at sea in a magnificent cruiser which was seeking to break the 
speed record; at sea, on the way home to his beloved family; at sea, 
after a difficult job which, discounting all official adulation, he knew 
in his heart had been most excellently performed. It was not 
surprising that his infectious laugh should echo along the quarter- 
deck or that, black with coal-dust, he should help to stoke the 
ship. He returned to an England which was becoming increasingly 


The Liberal victory in the General Election of 1906 had to a 
great extent been due to the solid support of the Nonconformists, 
who had been outraged beyond reason by the Education Act of 1902. 
One of the first obligations therefore of the Liberal Government was 
to introduce a new Education Bill by which these grievances could 
be allayed. The Bill which Mr Augustine Birrell, laboriously but 
hurriedly, introduced in 1906 did not soothe the Nonconformists, 
while arousing passionate opposition on the other side. It was mauled 
in the House of Commons and amended beyond recognition in the 
House of Lords. The Government then took the unprecedented and 
provocative step of proposing that the lower Chamber should reject 
the Lords 9 amendments 'as a whole*. The Lords, having thus been 
challenged, maintained their amendments and the Bill was dropped. 
The Lords thereafter also rejected the Plural Voting Bill and the 
Land Valuation Bill. The Liberal majority in the House of Com- 
mons, together with their allies of the left, became convinced that the 
Conservative majority in the House of Lords, with their phalanx of 
dim and inarticulate backwoodsmen, were determined to obstruct 
perhaps even to veto all Government legislation. Already on June 
24, 1907, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had introduced a 
resolution that *the power of the other House should be so restricted 
by law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the 
final decision of the Commons should prevail*. A conflict between 
the two Houses had become inevitable: it was realised that this con- 
flict would raise grave constitutional issues and might end by in- 
volving the prerogative of the Crown. 

The second reward which the Liberal Government felt bound to 
offer to the Nonconformists was the Licensing Bill. Mr Asquith (who 
on the retirement and death of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 


Mr AsquitKs difficulties 
April, 1908, had become Prime Minister) 1 brought forward a measure 
which would have involved the suppression of thirty thousand 
licensed premises within the next fourteen years. This highly un- 
popular proposal led to a sensational defeat of the Government 
candidate at a by-election in Peckham. Encouraged by this mani- 
festation of popular feeling, and still smarting under the rude treat- 
ment accorded to their amendments to the Birrell Education Bill, 
the Lords at this stage committed the first of the many tactical errors 
which hampered their handling of the controversy which there- 
after arose. Instead of debating the Bill seriously in the gilded 
Chamber the decision to reject it was taken at a private meeting 
held in Lansdowne House. This Bill was also dropped. The tension 
between the two Houses became progressively and rapidly acute. 

The Nonconformists were not the only group of supporters 
whom the Government were obliged to placate. They had also to 
consider the Irish Nationalists. The Irish Councils Bills of 1907 a 
jejune little sop was violently rejected by the eighty-three Irish 
members and was in its turn hastily withdrawn. The impression was 
conveyed that if and when the Government majority declined (and 
successive by-elections indicated such a declension) the continued 
support of the Irish section would have to be purchased at a far 
heavier price. The menacing spectre of Home Rule began again to 
shake its troubled locks. 

The public in the meanwhile were becoming disturbed by doubts 
regarding our naval security. The introduction of the Dreadnought 
battleship (a type which rendered all previous designs out of date) 
suggested the most disquieting thought that the Germans, by con- 
centrating entirely on Dreadnoughts, could render obsolete all previous 
British construction and challenge our former uncontested superior- 
ity. Mr Reginald McKenna, who had succeeded Lord Tweedmouth 

1 Mr Asquith, on succeeding Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 
April 1908, made certain important ministerial changes. Mr Lloyd 
George became Chancellor of the Exchequer and his place as President of 
the Board of Trade was taken by Mr Winston Churchill. Lord Crewe 
succeeded Lord Elgin at the Colonial Office, and Mr McKenna replaced 
Lord Tweedmouth as First Lord of the Admiralty. Mr John Morley 
retained the India Office, but in a new guise as Viscount Morley of Black- 
burn. Sir Edward Grey, Mr Herbert Gladstone, Mr Haldane, and Mr 
John Burns remained respectively Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, 
Secretary of State for War, and President of the Local Government Board. 
Mr Birrell had already succeeded Mr Bryce in 1 907 as Chief Secretary for 

zy*4~ I 99 European groupings 

as First Lord, asked the Cabinet to concede the construction of six 
Dreadnoughts, but the Cabinet agreed to four only. The public 
clamoured for eight Dreadnoughts and once again the Government 
were forced to give way. 1 

These successive retreats on the part of a Government enjoying 
so overwhelming a majority created the impression that the Cabinet, 
however brilliant might be the intellectual equipment of individual 
members, did not possess the solidarity, the convictions or the 
determination required to control a world situation of ever in- 
creasing menace. The excellent work accomplished by the Liberal 
Government dining its first three years of office (the reorganisation 
of the Army by Mr Haldane, the introduction of Old Age Pensions 
and Mr Lloyd George's schemes for Labour Exchanges and Trade 
Boards) passed almost unnoticed in the general uneasiness. The 
British public watched the development of the foreign situation with 
ever-growing perplexity and alarm. 

The German Foreign Office, having always disbelieved in the 
possibility of an Entente, had reacted to the conclusion of the Anglo- 
French agreement of April 1904, with provocative clumsiness. Frei- 
herr von Holstein staged a series of Kraftproben, or trials of strength, 
with which to test the strength or weakness of the new combination. 
In the early spring of 1905 the German Emperor landed suddenly at 
Tangier and assured the representative of the Sultan of Morocco 
that he remained the champion of Moorish independence. On 
June 6 of that year, by methods of intimidation, the Germans 
secured the resignation of Monsieur Ddcass, one of the main 
architects of the Entente. On July 23 the German Emperor arranged 
a private and dramatic meeting with the Tsar of Russia at Bjorko and 
extracted from him an offensive and defensive alliance, which was 
immediately repudiated by both the Russian and the German 
Governments. In the late autumn the Germans insisted that the 
future status of Morocco should be subjected to international agree- 
ment. At the Algeciras Conference which followed, Germany failed 
to dislocate the united front of France and Great Britain and 
suffered an overt diplomatic defeat. Freiherr von Holstein, as a 
victim of German mortification, was forced to resign. In 1907 came 
the Anglo-Russian Convention which created in Germany the panic 

1 Mr Churchill (The World Crisis, 1311-1914, p. 37) comments acutely: 
'In the end a curious and characteristic solution was reached. The Ad- 
miralty had demanded six ships: the economists offered four; and we 
finally compromised on eight.' 


Mr Lloyd George 1908 

dread of encirclement. In June 1908, the relations between England 
and Russia were fortified by the visit of King Edward to the Tsar at 
Reval. On October 6, 1908, Baron von Aehrenthal, the Austrian 
Foreign Minister, having tricked both his Russian colleague, 
Monsieur Iswolsky and the German Ambassador in Vienna, sud- 
denly announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzogovina. It was 
evident that Russia, weakened though she was by her defeat in the 
Japanese war and by the internal troubles which had followed, 
could not and would not again tolerate a similar affront. By the end 
of 1909 Europe was divided into two hostile and highly sensitive 
camps; there were many who feared that any further incident would 
provoke a war such as the world had not witnessed for a hundred 

Mr Lloyd George, in April 1908, had succeeded Mr Asquith as 
Chancellor of the Exchequer. Imaginative, resourceful, impetuous, 
endowed with unusual demagogic powers and compelling personal 
charm, Mr Lloyd George was not encumbered by the vestigial 
affections which his colleagues still cherished for the ancient monu- 
ments of English tradition. Nor did he possess the tastes, intellectual 
or other, which British statesmen in the past had striven either to 
enjoy or to simulate. In their rare hours of relaxation Mr Asquith 
would study Epictetus or Mr P. G. Wodehouse, Mr Haldane the 
Kritik der reinen Venwnft, Lord Morley Le neveu de Rameau; Sir -Edward 
Grey would murmur Wordsworth to himself while observing the 
habits of the birds and fishes and Mr Birrell would compose another 
volume of his Obiter Dicta. The relaxation of Mr Lloyd George was 
to sing wild hymns to a harmonium. The very fact that he was closer 
to the people than were his classic colleagues enabled him to realise 
more clearly than they that the old Gladstonian formulas were losing 
their glamour and their potency; and that if Liberalism were not to 
become outmoded or overwhelmed by the rising tide of socialism, 
some more stimulating doctrine must be devised. He determined to 
preach Social Democracy and to lead the attack on privilege a 
cause and a battle which were to him supremely congenial. 

Before embarking on his later schemes for social betterment, 
Mr Lloyd George, who required sixteen millions more revenue for 
the Dreadnoughts and the Old Age Pensions, framed what he christened 
The People's Budget'. The provisions of this budget do not today 
seem confiscatory. Income tax, at the highest level, was raised to one 
shilling and eightpence in the pound; some extremely complicated, 
and perhaps vindictive, land taxes were proposed; there were addi- 

The People's Budget 

tional duties on spirits and tobacco, a heavy tax on licensed premises, 
and a simple tax on motor cars and petrol. The Conservatives 
immediately denounced these proposals as predatory; the Lords, 
stung to imprudence by the inordinate if amusing insults which Mr 
Lloyd George hurled at them from the platform, decided that the 
Constitution was in danger and that they must therefore brace them- 
selves to violate the most cherished of constitutional conventions, 
namely the unwritten principle that the Upper House must not 
reject or amend the annual Budget. 1 

The Finance Bill of 1909 was debated in Committee of the House 
of Commons for forty-two days and was finally passed by 379 to 149 
on November 4. On November 30 it was rejected by the House of 
Lords on the second reading by 350 votes to 75. 

The defects or merits of Mr Lloyd George's financial proposals 
were thereafter overshadowed by the far greater issue of Lords versus 
Commons. The House of Lords had justified their rejection of Mr 
Lloyd George's Budget on the grounds, first, that this was no 
ordinary measure of supply, but a revolutionary change in estab- 
lished financial policy; and, second, that it was doubtful whether 
the provisions which it embodied really reflected the desires of the 
electorate. Mr Asquith decided therefore that he must ask for a 
dissolution and appeal to the country. At the General Election of 
January 1910, the Liberals lost one hundred and four seats to the 
Conservatives, and their old overwhelming majority was reduced to 
two. 2 Placid and even confident, Mr Asquith determined to cany on. 

At the opening of the new Parliament on February 21, 1910, 
King Edward, in his Speech from the Throne, announced that 
measures would be introduced to 'define the relations between the 
Houses of Parliament, so as to secure the undivided authority of the 
House of Commons over finance and its predominance in legisla- 
tion'. The measures thus announced took the form of three 'Resolu- 
tions 5 . First, that the veto of the House of Lords upon Bills certified 

lf The Conservatives were much embarrassed through the coining 
battle by the admission which Mr Balfour had made in the course of the 
debate-on Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman*s Resolution of June 24, 1907. 
'We all know 9 , he had said, 'that the power of the House of Lords . . . is 
still further limited by the fact that it cannot touch Money Bills, which if 
it could deal with, no doubt it could bring the whole executive government 
of the country to a standstill 9 (Hansard CLXXVI, 929-930) . 

2 The actual figures were: Liberals, 275 seats; Conservatives, 273; 
Irish Nationalists, 82; Labour, 40. Mr Asquith could thus rely, if he could 
obtain and retain Irish and Labour support, on an overall majority of 124. 


The Parliament Bill *9* 

by the Speaker to be 'Money Bills' should be abolished. Second, 
other Bills, if passed by the House of Commons in three successive 
sessions, should become law, whether the Upper House agreed or 
not. And third, that the duration of Parliament should be reduced 
from seven to five years. These three resolutions were passed by the 
House of Commons on April 1 4. On the same night, Mr Asquith laid 
upon the table of the House a Bill by which they should be given 
legislative effect. This Bill was entitled The Parliament Bill 5 . 

In his speech in the House of Commons on April 14, Mr Asquith 
stated that if the Lords rejected the Parliament Bill 'we shall feel it 
our duty immediately to tender advice to the Crown as to the steps 
which will have to be taken if that policy is to receive statutory effect 
in this Parliament'. He added that 'if we do not find ourselves in a 
position to ensure that statutory effect will be given to this policy in 
this Parliament, we shall then either resign our offices or recommend 
a dissolution of Parliament'. 

When pressed for a more precise definition of these cryptic 
utterances, Mr Asquith resorted to his justifiable, but damaging, 
formula of 'Wait and See'. The Irish Nationalists, under Mr Red- 
mond, had threatened to vote against the long-deferred Budget unless 
they were first given a firm assurance that a sufficient number of new 
peers would be created to swamp any opposition in the Upper 
Chamber to proposals for Home Rule. Mr Asquith, being unwilling 
to giv any such a guarantee at that stage of the crisis, ignored their 
menaces. He was justified by the event. Mr Lloyd George's Budget, 
having now been accorded the somewhat lukewarm approval of the 
electorate, passed the House of Commons on April 27 by a majority 
of ninety-three. The next day it was accepted by the House of Lords 
without a division. 

The stage was now cleared for the final conflict between the two 
Houses over the Parliament Bill. At that moment the course of events 
was deflected by a wholly unexpected misfortune. 


At 5.50 P.HL on Wednesday, April 27, King Edward, who had 
been spending a few weeks at Biarritz, reached Victoria Station, 
where he was greeted by the Prince of Wales. The latter thought 
him looking well and in good spirits; that evening they went to 
Covent Garden together to hear Madame Tetrazzini in Rigoletto. On 
Thursday King Edward attended the private view of the Royal 
Academy and on Friday the Prince of Wales brought his two elder 

Death of King Edward 

sons to luncheon at Buckingham Palace. On Saturday the King went 
down to Sandringham for the week-end, only returning to London 
on the Monday afternoon. On the morning of Wednesday, May 4, 
the Prince of Wales went to Kensal Green cemetery to visit the 
grave of his old tutor, Monsieur Hua. His diary for that day contains 
the first presage of impending catastrophe: 

'Had some very heavy showers. Home at 1.30. Lunched at 1.45. 
Laking came to see me at 2. 15 & gave a bad account of dear Papa, who 
has another attack of bronchitis. At 3.0 went over to B.P. & saw 
Papa; his colour was bad & his breathing fast. I didn't stop long as of 
course talking makes him cough. . . . We are naturally worried & 
anxious about him. Wrote to Motherdear & Toria to Calais, where 
they arrive tomorrow. Wish they were here now.' 

Qjieen Alexandra and Princess Victoria had been staying with 
the King of the Hellenes at Corfu and only reached London on the 
afternoon of Thursday, May 5. c lt was a great shock to them', the 
Prince of Wales noted that evening, 'to see Papa in this state.' 

His diary for Friday, May 6, is written in a hand which betrays 
deep agitation: 

'I went to B.P. at 10.15, where I regret to say I found darling Papa 
much worse, having had a fainting fit. It was indeed a terrible day for 
us all. We hardly left him. He knew us & talked to us between his 
attacks up to 4.30. 

'At 1 1.45 beloved Papa passed peacefully away & I have lost my 
best friend & the best of fathers. I never had a word with him in his life. 
I am heartbroken & overwhelmed with grief, but God will help me in 
my great responsibilities & darling May will be my comfort as she al- 
ways has been. May God give me strength & guidance in the heavy 
task which has fallen on me. I sent telegrams to the Lord Mayor & the 
Prime Minister. Left Motherdear & Toria and drove back to M.H. 
with darling May. I am quite stunned by this awful blow. Bed at i .o.* 


Continuity of the British monarchical tradition The Royal House of 
Britain as the oldest of our political institutions Advantages and 
disadvantages of hereditary Monarchy The conflict between 
Crown and Parliament The evolution of the conceptions of 'limited 
Monarchy' and 'responsible government 9 Ministers are now 
responsible for the King's public acts The Royal Prerogative Its 
employment as a convenient instrument of administration Even in 
foreign and commonwealth affairs the King can perform no act 
except on the advice of Ministers Constitutionally he can dissolve 
Parliament, dismiss the Government and even refuse the Royal Assent 
to Bills In practical politics such powers would not be spontaneously 
exercised His only independent function is to choose a Prime 
Minister from among alternative candidates The contention that 
the circumstances with which King George was faced between 1910 
and 1914 were abnormal circumstances Is the King the 'guardian 
of the constitution*? Yet if the King possesses limited political power 
he possesses great political influence Definition of this influence The 
popularity of the Crown King George's personal contribution. 

KING GEORGE v succeeded his father on May 6, 1910, and 
reigned for almost twenty-six years. During that quarter of a century 
the world witnessed the disappearance of five Emperors, eight Kings 
and eighteen minor dynasties. The British Monarchy emerged from 
the convulsion more firmly established than it had been before. 

The stability of our monarchical tradition during this period of 
deep and rapid change was not due solely to King George's straight- 
forwardness and wisdom. It must also be attributed to the elasticity 
of our constitution, to the capacity possessed by this ill-defined 
assortment of laws, customs and conventions to adjust itself, without 
strain or rupture, to fundamentally altered conditions: 

'A constitution', writes Sir William Anson, 'which began with the 
rude organization of a group of settlers in a hostile country, has been 
adapted, first to the wants of a highly civilised race, then to the 
government of a vast Empire; and this by an insensible process of 
change, without any attempt to recast it as a whole, or even to state it 
in written form. 9 

A written constitution possesses its own codified laws and often 
provides for some detached tribunal, empowered, if need arises, to 

Unwritten Constitution 

give an arbitral decision whether any given Act of State is constitu- 
tional or not. An unwritten constitution although possessing all the 
merits of elasticity and although hampered by none of the defects of 
rigidity inevitably contains some zones of uncertainty. 1 When the 
ship of state enters these uncharted waters, then the most learned and 
impartial authorities begin to differ on what the correct constitu- 
tional procedure really is. King George, whose constant desire was to 
abide by his Coronation Oath and to act strictly in accordance with 
his duties and responsibilities as a constitutional Monarch, was often 
driven by the winds and tides of events into these zones of uncertainty, 
and was obliged to determine, with little more than the stars to 
guide him, which was the true constitutional course to pursue* If any 
clear conception is to be conveyed of the nature of the problems he 
encountered, if any understanding is to be acquired of the vocabu- 
lary at the time employed, it will be necessary in this chapter to give 
a short account of the theory of British Constitutional Monarchy as 
it had developed by the year 1910; and to indicate what were the 
zones of uncertainty which occasioned such perplexity both to the 
King and to his Ministers during the first four years of his reign, 


The Royal House of Britain can claim to be the oldest dynasty in 
Europe and by far the most ancient of our political institutions. 
King George could trace his descent from Egbert, who ascended the 
throne of Wessex in 809 and was recognised as Bretwalda in 829. 
Apart from the interlude of Cromwell's Commonwealth, the direct 
descendants of Egbert have reigned in England for eleven hundred 
years. Our Law Courts are only eight hundred years old: our Parlia- 
ment only seven hundred. It was around the Throne that, in the 
course of centuries, there accumulated that body of laws, principles, 
precedents, customs and conventions which we call our Constitu- 

In Anglo-Saxon times the 'Kings of the English* had been elected 
by the Witan from among the more promising males of the Royal 
line. When the Normans arrived, the elective principle was, in form 
at least, preserved. The Kings had at first to submit to election, or 
more accurately 'recognition*, by the Commune Concilium. There- 

1 It is helpful to recall the encouragement of Edmund Burke: *We 
ought to understand it according to our measure; and to venerate where 
we are not able presently to understand* (Burke's Works, 1872 Edition, 


Hereditary Monarchy 

after the principle of hereditary succession by primogeniture became 


The advantages of a hereditary Monarchy are self-evident. 
Without some such method of prescriptive, immediate and auto- 
matic succession, an interregnum intervenes, rival claimants arise, 
continuity is interrupted and the magic lost. Even when Parliament 
had secured control of taxation and therefore of government; even 
when the menace of dynastic conflicts had receded into the coloured 
past; even when kingship had ceased to be transcendental and had 
become one of many alternative institutional forms; the principle of 
hereditary Monarchy continued to furnish the State with certain 
specific and inimitable advantages. 

Apart from the imponderable, but deeply important, sentiments 
and affections which congregate around an ancient and legitimate 
Royal Family, a hereditary Monarch acquires sovereignty by pro- 
cesses which are wholly different from those by which a dictator 
seizes, or a President is granted, the headship of the State. The 
King personifies both the past history and the present identity of 
the Nation as a whole. Consecrated as he is to the service of his 
peoples, he possesses a religious sanction and is regarded as someone 
set apart from ordinary mortals. In an epoch of change, he remains 
the symbol of continuity; in a phase of disintegration, the element 
of cohesion; in times of mutability, the emblem of permanence. 
Governments come and go, politicians rise and fall: the Crown is 
always there. A legitimate Monarch moreover has no need to justify 
his existence, since he is there by natural right. He is not impelled, 
as usurpers and dictators are impelled, either to mesmerise his 
people by a succession of dramatic triumphs, or to secure their 
acquiescence by internal terrorism or by the invention of external 
dangers. The appeal of hereditary Monarchy 'is to stability rather 
than to change, to continuity rather than to experiment, to custom 
rather than to novelty, to safety rather than to adventure. 

The Monarch, above all, is neutral. Whatever may be his per- 
sonal prejudices or affections, he is bound to remain detached from 
all political parties and to preserve in his own person the equilibrium 
of the realm. An elected President whether, as under some con- 
stitutions, he be no more than a representative functionary, or 
whether, as under other constitutions, he be the chief executive 
can never inspire the same sense of absolute neutrality. However 
impartial he may strive to become, he must always remain the 
prisoner of his own partisan past; he is accompanied by friends and 

Constitutional Monarchy 

supporters whom he may seek to reward, or faced by former anta- 
gonists who will regard him with distrust. He cannot, to an equal 
extent, serve as the fly-wheel of the state. 

The disadvantages of hereditary Monarchy are also apparent. 
The hazards of heredity render it improbable that any country will 
be blessed with a succession of equally wise, dutiful or blameless 
Kings. A Monarch moreover, being conscious that he is not physically 
of a different mould from other men, may become affected by the 
fantasy that his pre-eminence is due to supernatural rather than to 
natural agencies: 

'Kings', announced James I in 1609, c are justly called gods, because 
they exercise a manner of resemblance to Divine power on earth. . . . 
They have power to exalt low things and abase high things and to 
make of their subjects like men at chess. 9 

The doctrine of Divine Right, which had already been pro- 
foundly shaken by the Reformation, did not survive the execution of 
Charles I. Yet the essential political problem remained. Gould a sys- 
tem be devised by which the advantages of hereditary Monarchy 
could be preserved, without exposing the State to the manifest dis- 
advantages which it might entail? The political aptitudes of the 
British people, their congenital dislike of all logical extremes, enabled 
them in the course of centuries to work out the required com- 
promises. They developed a system which, without any rupture of 
continuity, was sufficiently elastic to admit of recurrent change. 
They called this system "limited 3 or 'constitutional' Monarchy. In 
perfecting this instrument they were much assisted by the accidents 


The struggle between Grown and Parliament centred in 
five main questions. Gould the King raise taxes without the consent 
of Parliament? Gould he maintain a private army? Gould he institute 
special Royal courts of justice? And could he suspend the operation 
of laws passed by Parliament or grant his subjects a dispensation 
from obeying them? 

When in December 1688, King James II escaped to France, 
having thrown the Great Seal into the Thames at Vauxhall, he was 
deemed to have vacated the throne. The Convention Parliament 
thereupon offered the Crown to his daughter Mary and to her 
husband, William of Orange, himself a grandson of Charles I. By the 
Declaration and Bill of Rights the Convention Parliament formu- 


Responsible Government 

lated the conditions upon which this offer was made and accepted. 
The King was denied the right of raising taxes, creating special 
courts of law, or maintaining a standing army without the consent 
of Parliament. The suspending and dispensing powers of the Crown, 
namely the power to suspend the operation of a law or to dispense 
anyone from obeying it, were declared to be 'illegal usurpations'. 
Parliament was to be convened at regular intervals and freedom of 
speech and debate was to be guaranteed. The Bill of Rights thus 
established the firm principle that the King reigned, not by Divine 
Right, still less under any system of feudal contract, but solely with 
and by the consent of Parliament. 

When the Duke of Gloucester (the only one of Princess Anne's 
numerous children to survive infancy) died in 1700, Parliament 
decided that on the death of William III and of his sister-in-law 
Anne, the succession should pass to Sophia, Dowager Electress of 
Hanover, and the heirs of her body. The Act of Settlement of 1701, 
which formulated this decision, contained one all-important addition 
to the Bill of Rights. It was then laid down that in future Ministers 
should be 'responsible' for the acts of the Sovereign. It is question- 
able whether those who drafted the Act of Settlement fully realised 
the immense future significance of this principle. 

The expression 'responsible government' which thereafter became 
current, includes several different implications. In the first place, it 
means that Ministers are 'responsible* to Parliament in the sense 
that they cannot govern without the support of a majority in the 
House of Commons. 1 In the second place, it means that Ministers are 
'responsible' for the 'advice' they tender to the Sovereign and there- 
fore for any action which he may take: 

'The King', stated Lord Erskine in the House of Lords on April 13, 
1807, ' cai * perform no act of government himself. No act of state or 
government can be the King's; he cannot act but by advice; and he 
who holds office sanctions what is done, from whatsoever source it may 

A subsequent extension .of the phrase implies what is known as 
'collective responsibility* or 'Cabinet responsibility', namely the joint 

1 This essential principle dates from the Grand Remonstrance of the 
Long Parliament in 1641. King Charles I was informed that he must em- 
ploy only such Ministers 'as Parliament may have cause to confide in* and 
was warned that, if he evaded this suggestion, Parliament would find them- 
selves unable 'to give His Majesty such supplies for the support of his own 
estate nor such assistance to the Protestant party beyond the sea as is 

Cabinet Government 

responsibility of Ministers for each other's actions and misfortunes. 
The King, under this principle, cannot dismiss an individual 
Minister without incurring the resignation of the Cabinet as a whole. 
Apart from these constitutional, or institutional, implications the 
phrase 'responsible government' contains a metaphysical idea. Not 
only Ministers, but the official Opposition also, must be guided in 
their actions and statements by a sense of responsibility; irresponsible 
acts or utterances should be regarded as obnoxious to the spirit of the 

The historical accident which, during the course of the eighteenth 
century, firmly established the principle of responsible government 
and led to the Cabinet system as we know it today, was the advent 
of the Hanoverians in 1714. King George I was not interested in 
British politics and was much embarrassed by the fact that he could 
neither speak nor understand the English language. Even the halting 
Latin, in which his Ministers sought to convey their desires, was 
spoken with so strong a public-school accent that it was to him 
incomprehensible. He therefore ceased to preside (as Charles II had 
regularly presided) at the meetings of the Cabinet and his place as 
chairman was assumed by the senior Minister, who gradually be- 
came known as the Prime Minister. 1 

In spite of the categorical enactments of the Bill of Rights and 
the Act of Settlement, in spite of the evolution of Responsible govern- 
ment' and of the Cabinet system as we know it today, there remained, 
and still remain, certain discretionary powers in the hands of the 
Crown. These are known generally as The Royal Prerogative', by 
which is meant those actions which the King and his servants can 
take (without the authority of an Act of Parliament), by Order in 
Council, Proclamation, or Sign Manual. Since it was in regard to 
the exercise of the Prerogative that King George was faced with such 
recurrent difficulties, its nature and limitations must be examined in 
further detail. 

1 The term 'Prime Minister* is a nineteenth-century term. In the eigh- 
teenth century, when used at all, it was used in a derogatory sense. The 
office of Prime Minister is unknown to British Law. The term has only 
thrice been employed in any Act of Parliament, notably in the Chequers 
Estate Act of 1917. It occurs only in two official documents: namely, the 
Treaty of Berlin, when Disraeli signed himself 'Prime Minister of England* 
and when King Edward VII on December 2, 1905, assigned the Prime 
Minister place and precedence next after the Archbishop of York. 


The Royal Prerogative 


Walter Bagehot, in his English Constitution* gives an entertaining 
list of some of the many things which Queen Victoria, by exercising her 
Prerogative, was legally entitled to do without consulting Parliament: 
'She could disband the army (by law she cannot engage more than a 
certain number of men, but she is not obliged to engage any men) ; she 
could dismiss all the officers, from the General commanding-in-chief 
downwards; she could dismiss all the sailors too; she could sell off all 
our ships of war and all our naval stores; she could make a peace by 
the sacrifice of Cornwall or begin a war for the conquest of Britanny. 
She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom, male or female, 
a peer; she could make every parish in the United Kingdom a "uni- 
versity"; she could dismiss most of the Civil Servants; she could pardon 
all offenders. In a word, the Queen could, by prerogative, upset all the 
action of civil government, could disgrace the nation by a bad war or 
peace, and could, by disbanding our forces, whether land or sea, leave 
us defenceless against foreign nations. 9 

That such experiments in the use of the Prerogative could never 
in fact be attempted is due essentially to the provision that no action 
can be taken by the Sovereign except on the 'advice* of a Minister 
accountable to Parliament. Yet some confusion may arise from the 
fact that many writers, when discussing the Prerogative of the Crown, 
are apt to employ the word 'Crown' as signifying, at one time the 
King personally, and at another time the Executive or Government. 

The power of the Executive to legislate by Proclamation or 
Order in Council was during the eighteenth century still regarded 
with some perturbation. Thus when Lord Chatham in 1766 used the 
Prerogative to lay an embargo upon all grain ships in British ports, 
he felt himself obliged thereafter to ask the House of Commons to 
pass a Bill of Indemnity. c lt was', he explained, 'but a forty days 
tyranny.' Since that date, we have rid. ourselves of these inhibitions: 
'delegated legislation' has become a common practice. The Defence 
of the Realm Act of 1914, for instance, authorised the King in 
Council to issue regulations affecting, not merely the armed forces, 
but the rights of private citizens. Among the powers transferred by 
this Act to the Crown were such unseemly innovations as the right 
to intern individuals without trial and to prohibit the blowing of 
cab-whistles at night. Even the forgotten privilege of purveyance 
was revived by this Act in order to enable the Crown to requisition 
premises without compensation. 1 By the Emergency Powers Act of 
1 The right of purveyance was denied by the House of Lords in an 
appeal in the case of the Attorney-General v. de Keyser's Hotel in 1920. 
In spite of D.O.R.A., the principles of Magna Carta were affirmed. 

The King and Foreign Affairs 

1920, to take another instance, the King in Council was empowered 
to proclaim a c state of emergency' and the Government, under such a 
proclamation, could, without the consent or even knowledge of 
Parliament, exercise wide discretionary powers to safeguard public 
order. The powers delegated to the Crown under the Foreign 
Jurisdiction Act are extensive and of ancient date. 

The King also retains, under his Prerogative, the right to issue 
Sign Manuals or Warrants. Although this right is usually restricted 
to the authorisation of appointments, the issue of pardons, and 
similar formal enactments, it can legally be used for far more im- 
portant executive acts. It was, for instance, under Sign Manual that 
Queen Victoria abolished the practice of purchasing commissions in 
the army; an abolition which the House of Lords had refused to 
sanction as being, in their opinion, a violation of the rights of 

It must be clearly understood that the use of the Royal Preroga- 
tive for delegated legislation is today little more than a governmental 
or departmental convenience. The expression 'the Crown', when 
used in such a connection, signifies, not the King personally, but the 
Government. The device of using the Royal Prerogative, or other 
forms of delegated legislation, in order to avoid the delays and 
dangers of Parliamentary discussion is one which offers a recurrent 
temptation to all Ministers and Departments; it rightly calls for the 
vigilance of constitutional purists. Yet essentially it is subject to the 
overriding principle that such uses or abuses of the Prerogative are 
in no sense the personal responsibility of the King in Council, but 
exercised by him solely on and with the advice of Ministers, who, in 
their turn, are strictly accountable to Parliament. 

The convention that it is the King, and not Parliament, who 
declares war and makes peace, who concludes treaties and who alone 
can cede territory, 1 has encouraged the idea that in external affairs, 
whether foreign or imperial, he possesses wider constitutional powers 
both of initiative and action. Foreign policy, it has been argued, is 
continuous and above party. The King, as representing the nation 
as a whole, should therefore in international relations be less depend- 
ent upon the advice given him by those Ministers who at the moment 
happen to command the confidence of the House of Commons. It has 

1 The Treaty of Versailles (1783) under which Minorca and Florida 
were ceded was not the subject of an Act of Parliament. On the other hand 
the House of Commons was specifically invited to approve the cession of 
Heligoland (1890) andjubaland (1927). 


The King and the Dominions 

similarly been contended that in Commonwealth affairs the King 
(in that he stands in a unique relation to the several Dominion 
Governments) possesses a greater latitude of personal action. Each 
of these theories is fallacious. In Foreign Affairs the King can act 
only upon the advice of his Foreign Secretary: in internal Common- 
wealth affairs he, or his representative, can act only on the advice of 
a Dominion Government. 1 

It is true that Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, owing to 
their family connections with many of the reigning houses of Europe, 
took a direct interest in, and were on occasions able to influence, the 
course of foreign policy. Their conflicts with Lord Palmerston are on 
record/ It is also true that King Edward VII, with his intimate 
knowledge of Continental problems and personalities, was often 
able, with the approval of the Cabinet but not without some Parlia- 
mentary criticism, to engage in personal diplomatic activity and to 
give audiences to foreign representatives, without any Minister or 
Official being present. 

Such interventions were, however, no more than lubricants to 
Government policy and did not in any way affect the principle 
which, in his lapidary manner, Sir William Anson has summarised 
as follows :* 

e The Sovereign does not, constitutionally, take independent action in 
foreign affairs; everything which passes between him and foreign 
princes or ministers should be known to his own ministers, who are 
responsible to the people for policy, and to the law for acts done. 9 

(5) . 

If the King, whether in internal or external affairs, can commit 
no public act -except upon the advice of the Government in office, 
the question may be asked how his personal responsibility can ever, 
in any circumstances, become involved. The phrase 'the King can do 
no wrong' means, not that the Monarch is infallible, but that, since 
he can do nothing without the advice of Ministers, it is they who are 

1 A constitutional problem might occur in Regard to matters of com- 
mon interest to two or more Dominions. If 9 for instance, a dispute arose 
between His Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom and His Majesty's 
Ministers in the Union of South Africa in regard to the High Commission 
Territories, it might well happen that the King was tendered two contra- 
dictory sets of advice, each of which he was bound constitutionally to 

A further examination of the effect of the Statute of Westminster upon 
the position of the Crown occurs in Chapter XXVTII. 

The Kings initiative 

personally responsible if mistakes are made. Can any public issue 
arise therefore in which the King has to exercise personal initiative 
or reach an independent decision? 

The discussion of this question has sometimes been blurred by 
the fact that there exist certain functions which, in constitutional 
theory, the King alone can perform. No one but the Kong can sum- 
mon, prorogue or dissolve Parliament. No one but the King can 
dismiss or appoint a Prime Minister. No one but the King can grant 
pardons or confer peerages and honours. And no Bill, until it has 
received the Royal Assent, can become the law of the land. These 
powers are however limited in practice by the over-riding principle 
of 'responsible government'. The King is in fact accustomed to follow 
the advice tendered to him by the Prime Minister of the day, since, 
if he rejects that advice, the Government will resign, a general 
election will follow, the Grown may become involved in party 
controversy and the King may discover (as William IV discovered to 
his cost) that the opinion of the country is against him. These are 
dangers which no constitutional Monarch should be expected to 

It is thus necessary in every case to draw a distinction between 
the historical survival of these Prerogative powers and the political 
expediency of exercising them in practice. Only the most academic 
jurist would contend that in the twentieth century a constitutional 
Monarch could, in any important matter, ignore or flout the advice 
tendered to him by his Cabinet. On the first, perhaps even on the 
second, occasion that he did so, his intervention might be warmly 
approved by the electorate. But in the end this personal and inde- 
pendent exercise of the Prerogative would be bound to arouse opposi- 
tion and to raise doubts regarding the sovereign's neutrality and 
impartiality which are two of the main components of his influence. 
What the King certainly can do, in cases when he feels the advice 
given him is either dangerous or opposed to the wishes of the people 
as a whole, is to insist that the Cabinet shall furnish him with that 
advice in written form so that he also may have the opportunity of 
recording, in writing, that he follows that advice with misgiving and 
reluctance. Beyond that, in practical politics, he can scarcely go 
without compromising the influence of the Crown. 

In theory, for instance, it would be perfectly constitutional for 
the King to dissolve Parliament against the advice of the Prime 
Minister. Such action, in the view of Professor Dicey,* might be 
justifiable 'if there exists fair reason to suppose that the opinion of the 


The Royal Veto 

House is not the opinion of the electors. A dissolution in its essence 
is an appeal from the legal to the political sovereign'. Yet if the King 
estimates that 'fair reason' exists and the result of the election proves 
his estimate to have been mistaken, then an awkward, and indeed 
damaging, conclusion may result. Similarly, the King is perfectly 
within his constitutional rights in refusing to grant a dissolution when 
asked to do so by his Ministers. In that event, the Government might 
resign and, unless the leader of the Opposition were in the position 
to form and maintain an alternative administration, a general 
election would follow and the action of the Grown would become a 
matter of electoral controversy. 1 

The same considerations apply to the undoubted constitutional 
right possessed by the King to dismiss his Ministers. Unless an 
alternative Government, able to secure the confidence of the existing 
House of Commons were immediately available, then again a general 
election would ensue and the King's action might be exposed to 
public criticism. 

To take a more extreme instance of the distinction between theory 
and practice, the King could constitutionally refuse the Royal 
Assent to a Bill which has passed through Parliament. Were he to 
do so, the clerk at the table of the House of Lords would substitute 
for the accustomed formula: *Le Roy le veulf the unwonted words: 
'Le Roy s'avisera 9 . This startling phrase has not been heard in the 
gilded Chamber for more than two hundred years. Mr Asquith, 
therefore, had some justification for assuring the House of Commons 
in 1910 that the Royal Veto, which had not been exercised since 1 707, 
was 'literally as dead as Queen Anne'. 

Thus the only 'independent' function which the King can 
properly be called upon to perform arises upon the death or resigna- 

1 Lord Byng, when Governor-General of Canada in 1925, refused 
Mr Mackenzie King's request for a dissolution, on the ground that the 
leader of the Opposition was in the position to form and maintain an 
administration without one. Similarly, Sir Andrew Duncan, when 
Governgr-General of the Union of South Africa, refused to grant a dissolu- 
tion to General Hertzog in 1939. It has been asserted that King George V 
temporarily refused a dissolution to Mr Asquith in 1910. This assertion, as 
will be seen, is incorrect. 

Mr Asquith himself on December 18, 1923, enunciated the doctrine 
that it would be 'subversive of constitutional theory' to contend that the 
King was bound to grant a dissolution when advised to do so by the Prime 
Minister in power. An interesting correspondence on this point appeared 
in The Times on April 24, 1950, and succeeding days. 

The King as guardian of the Constitution 

tion of a Prime Minister. The King is then expected to choose, or 
'send for', his successor. His choice is of course limited by the fact 
that the new Prime Minister must command the support of his own 
party and the confidence of the House of Commons. But it certainly 
rests with the King, when alternative candidates, each possessing 
these qualifications, are available, to summon the one whom he 
regards as best fitted to carry on the Government. King George 
exercised this discretionary power when in 1923 he chose Mr Stanley 
Baldwin rather than Lord Curzon. He again exercised it when, in 
different circumstances, he charged Mr Ramsay MacDonald with 
the formation of a 'National Government 5 in 1931. 

It would be agreed therefore by most constitutional authorities 
that the discretionary powers possessed by the King are in normal 
conditions strictly limited to the choice of a Prime Minister from 
among two or more equally acceptable candidates. Yet the perplex- 
ities which assailed King George during the first four years of his 
reign arose from the fact that the conditions then created were, in 
the opinion of many responsible people, not normal but abnormal. 

The Parliament Bill, which, after much storm and stress, became 
law in August 1911, abolished the veto hitherto possessed by the 
House of Lords on legislation passed by a majority of the House of 
Commons. In the preamble to that Bill, however, it had been stated 
that 'it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at 
present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of 
a hereditary basis'. It was argued by certain purists that until the 
promise implicit in this preamble had been carried into effect, and a 
reformed Second Chamber had in fact been created, the Constitution 
was 'in a state of suspense'. It was contended that pending the re- 
establishment of the traditional balance between the Three Estates 
of the Realm, the powers of veto until then exercised by the House 
of Lords must necessarily devolve upon the King personally. 

This most academic theory was seized upon in 1912 by certain 
politicians who were determined to oppose by any means the passage 
of the Home Rule Bill. They argued that an abnormal situation had 
been created to which the accustomed proprieties of constitutional 
procedure no longer applied. Mr Asquith, having temporarily sus- 
pended the powers of veto hitherto possessed by the Upper Chamber, 
was, they argued, seeking to impose the Home Rule Bill upon the 
country by using the artificial and unrepresentative majority given 
him by the Irish vote in the House of Commons. In so doing he was 
forcing through Parliament a constitutional change of the utmost 


Sir William Anson's opinion 

gravity without having obtained a sufficiently clear mandate from 
the British electorate. In such wholly abnormal circumstances they 
contended, the King became 'the guardian of the Constitution 9 and 
the ultimate trustee of the rights and liberties of the sovereign people. 
Under his Coronation Oath he had undertaken to govern according 
to existing 'statutes and customs 9 . Now that these customs were being 
flagrantly violated, it became his duty to assert his Prerogative, even 
to the extreme point of refusing his Assent to the Home Rule Bill, at 
least until the electorate had been given a clear opportunity to 
express their desires. It was even pointed out that, once the powers 
of the House of Lords had been abolished and until an alternative 
Second Chamber had been established in its place, there was nothing 
except the personal intervention of the King which could prevent an 
unscrupulous Prime Minister, possessing a temporary majority in 
the House of Commons, from establishing a dictatorship, or at least 
from prolonging indefinitely the life of the existing Parliament and 
of his own administration. 

King George was not impressed by such fantastic suppositions. 
But he was sufficiently perturbed by the appeals and warnings which 
reached Mm from these constitutional pundits to authorise his 
Private Secretary to consult the greatest living authority, Sir 
William Anson, as to whether there was any substance in such a 
contention. The latter's reply is of interest/ He stated that the King 
undoubtedly possessed, according to the law of the Constitution, the 
'discretionary poyver 9 to refuse his Assent to a Bill, but that it was for 
him to determine whether the advice being tendered to him by the 
Prime Minister reflected the will of the Nation. If Mr Asquith 
resigned and his party were returned to power by the electorate, then 
the King would have been shown to have incorrectly gauged the 
wishes of the people. The abolition of the powers of the House of 
Lords did not, in Sir William Anson's opinion, affect the con- 
stitutional right of the King to exercise his ultimate veto, 'but it 
might suggest reasons which did not exist before for the assertion of 
that right 9 . Such an opinion, although doubtless incontestable in law, 
does not appear to be equally sound as a matter of practical politics. 1 

1 Dr Keith, in his book The King and the Imperial Crown (page 183), is 
somewhat more dogmatic than Sir William Anson. He contends that the 
King is the final guardian of the Constitution and that his duties and 
responsibilities in this function were notably increased after the Parliament 
Bill in 1911. 

He seems to base his argument on the contention that any Parlia- 
mentary majority in the House of Commons is not necessarily a sure" 

Advance pledges 

A further problem of constitutional propriety, a further zone of 
uncertainty, arises when a Government, on the eve of a general 
election, advises the King to give pledges, which can become opera- 
tive only when the election is over. It could be argued that, in 
certain circumstances, such advance pledges might prove of electoral 
advantage to the party in power and of disadvantage to their 
opponents. If the King refuses to give the pledges demanded, he may 
be accused of rejecting the advice of his responsible Ministers. If 
he agrees to furnish these advance pledges, he may thereafter be 
accused of having abandoned his absolute neutrality. It was this 
predicament which faced King George in November 1910, when Mr 
Asquith, in anticipation of the impending election, asked him to 
promise that, in the event of the Government being returned to 
power, he would exercise his Prerogative to create a number of new 
peers sufficient to swamp all possible opposition to the Parliament 
Bill in the Upper Chamber. Constitutional authorities will for long 
dispute whether Mr Asquith was justified in demanding such a 
promise and whether it was one which the King should rightly have 
been expected to accord. 1 

(6) - 

Although therefore the executive powers of the King are strictly 
limited, both by constitutional theory and by political expediency 
and practice, the influence which he retains, although indefinable, 

indication of the real wishes of the electorate. He fortifies his contention, 
that our present electoral machinery is a most imperfect instrument for 
recording the real desires of the sovereign people, by giving certain rather 
disturbing figures. Thus, under a system of Proportional Representation, 
the Liberal Majority in 1906 would have been, not 354 but 96. He cites 
other equally distracting statistics to show that the number of seats ob- 
tained by any given party in the House of Commons does not necessarily 
(and in fact very rarely) bear any real relation to the electoral decisions 
of the sovereign people. 

The implication is that the King (being above all lobby statistics) 
should be guided by the proportions of popular votes recorded, rather 
than by the numerical list of the seats obtained. His theory is interesting. 
But it bears little relation to the problems of practical British politics. 

1 A similar *zone of uncertainty' might be entered if His Majesty's 
Government in the United Kingdom were to recommend for a peerage or 
other distinction an individual whose general repute did not seem to 
qualify hi for preferment. If such an individual had been born and bred 
and had acquired repute in the United Kingdom, the King might feel 
that he was justified, in such a case, in following tike advice tendered to 
by his British Ministers. But if (as might well occur) the individual 


The King's influence 

is very great. It has been excellently described by Sir William 


'The real influence of the Sovereign in this country is not to be esti- 
mated either by his legal or his actual powers as the executive of the 
State. The King or Queen for the time being is not a mere piece of 
mechanism, but a human being carefully trained under circumstances 
which afford exceptional chances of learning the business of politics. 
Such a personage cannot be treated or regarded as a mere instrument: 
it is evident that on all matters of state, especially on matters which 
concern the relations of our own with other States, he receives full 
information, and is able to express if not to enforce an opinion. And 
this opinion may, in the course of a long reign, become a thing of great 
weight and value. It is impossible to be constantly consulted and con- 
cerned for years together in matters of great moment without acquiring 
experience if not wisdom. Ministers come and go, and the policy of one 
group of ministers may not be the policy of the next, but all ministers in 
turn must explain their policy to the Executive Sovereign, must effect 
it through his instrumentality, must leave upon his mind such a 
recollection of its method and of its results as may be used to form and 
influence the action of their successsors.' 

The influence which any British King or Queen is able to exer- 
cise is derived, not merely from the personal qualities of an individual 
Sovereign, but also from tKe respect and affection with which the 
Monarchy, as an institution, is generally regarded. That these feel- 
ings may be largely based on sentiment in no way diminishes their 
validity or effect. The metaphysics', writes Professor Laski* 'of 
limited monarchy do not easily lend themselves to critical discussion.' 
Yet the fact remains that the Monarchy is today regarded by the 
people of this island and of the Commonwealth and Empire as the 
magnet of loyalty, the emblem of union, the symbol of continuity 
and the embodiment of national, as distinct from class or party, 
feeling. 1 

recommended had been born and bred and had acquired repute in one 
of the Dominions: and if there were reason to suppose that His Majesty's 
Ministers in that Dominion would make no similar recommendation: then 
the King, as fount of honour, would assuredly be justified in withholding 
his Assent. 

In such circumstances His Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom 
would be unlikely to tender their resignations. 

1 The esteem with which the Monarchy is to-day regarded has not a 
tradition of uninterrupted continuity. It is true that the Chartists of 1838- 
1848 did not include the establishment of a Republic under their many 
demands. But the long retirement of Queen Victoria after the death of the 
Prince Consort did provide an opportunity for a republican movement 

The Crown as emollient 

The demonstrations of affection and esteem which marked the 
Silver Jubilee of King George V came as a revelation to foreign 
observers and were welcomed by the King himself with modest sur- 
prise. They were in fact a tribute to what had been a remarkable 
achievement. Being a man in whom there was no guile, King George 
throughout his reign took it for granted that he would receive from 
successive Cabinets the same natural fidelity as he accorded to them. 
The candour of his approach, the probity of his nature, the straight- 
ness of all his thoughts and actions, did more than create a lasting 
level of confidence; they shamed the stratagems of more elaborate 
minds. He was able, with ever-increasing authority, c to advise, to 
encourage and to warn'. The advice which he gave his Ministers (and 
it was persistent and could not be ignored) was invariably in favour 
of conciliation and accord. He would beg them not to make speeches 
which might arouse unnecessary antagonisms or commit the Govern- 
ment itself to irretrievable courses. On occasions he would urge them 
to discuss matters frankly and privately with their political opponents 
rather than to indulge in parliamentary polemics. He missed no 
opportunity to encourage such private conferences and his whole 
influence was exercised towards lowering rather than raising the 
temperature of party animosities. 

The ordinary citizens learnt to regard King George both as the 
father of his people and as the reflection and magnification of their 
own collective virtues. Dutifully he subordinated his own preferences 

which after the proclamation of the French Republic in 1871 did certainly 
acquire considerable importance and, under the leadership of Charles 
Bradlaugh and George Odger, incorporated formidable, if momentary, 
fellow-travellers, such as Dilke, Joseph Chamberlain, Auberon Herbert, 
Bright, and even John Morley. The movement collapsed after the popular 
demonstration on the recovery of the Prince of Wales from his serious ill- 
ness in 1871. The last Republican Conference was held at Birmingham in 
May 1873 an< ^ Dilke in the next year ascribed his former republicanism 
to 'political infancy 9 . In 1923 the Labour Conference rejected by 3,694,000 
votes to 386,000 the motion: 'Is Republicanism the policy of the Labour 

Professor Laski attributes the collapse of the Republican movement to 
many causes, among them the immense popularity of Queen Victoria in 
her later years, the 'immediate* popularity of King Edward VII, and the 
'ultimate' popularity of King George V. He also attributes it to the 
elimination of the aristocratic wedge in the structure of political power 
and to the fact that, tinder King George V, the Monarchy became identi- 
fied with the interests of the ordinary citizen and an 'emollient, rather than 
an active umpire, between conflicting interests'.* 


King George's contribution 

and prejudices, his many unconcealed likes and dislikes, to an 
excellent perception of his historical function. Under his guidance, 
the British Monarchy emerged from a period of international con- 
vulsion, from a period at home of slow silent revolution, with en- 
hanced influence and repute. Throughout those twenty-six years of 
difficulty and danger King George remained unalterable and un- 




King George's first Council The Prime Minister hurries back from 
Gibraltar The Accession proclaimed King Edward's funeral 
The Constitutional crisis Effect of the General Election of January, 
1910 Mr Asquith's position His statements of December 10, 
February 21 and April 14 King Edward's attitude to the problem 
The historical precedents The Conference between the Government 
and the Opposition Mr Lloyd George's desire for a Coalition 
Government The Conference breaks down Mr Asquith at York 
Cottage He asks for no guarantees On his return to London he 
changes his mind and demands immediate pledges Lord Knollys 
and the Master of Elibank The King refuses to give contingent 
guarantees The Cabinet minute of November 15 The King comes 
to London His conversation with Mr Asquith and Lord Crewe on 
November 16 He agrees to give the pledges The King resents the 
pledge being kept secret His feeling that his hand was forced. 

ON SATURDAY, May 7, 1910, the new king drove in a dosed carriage 
from Marlborough House to St. James's Palace to attend his first 
Council. Dressed in admiral's uniform he stood in the Banqueting 
Hall with the Privy Councillors grouped around him. The most 
trying ordeal 5 , he wrote that evening, 'that I ever had to go through.' 

'My heart is too full', he said to them, *for me to address you today in 
more than a few words. I have not only lost a father's love, but the 
affectionate and intimate relations of a dear friend and adviser. I am 
deeply sensible of the very heavy responsibilities which have fallen 
upon me. I know that I can rdy upon Parliament and the People of 
these islands and of my Dominions beyond the seas for their help in 
the discharge of these arduous duties and for their prayers that God 
will grant me strength and guidance. I am encouraged by the know- 
ledge that I have in my dear wife one who will be a constant help- 
mate in every endeavour for our People's good.' 

The Privy Councillors were impressed by the firm tones in which 
he said these words and by the simplicity of his bearing. 

The Prime Minister at the end of April had embarked in the 
Admiralty yacht Enchantress for a Mediterranean cruise. The news of 


Hallefs comet 

King Edward's death was brought to him at 3.0 a.m. on the morning 

of May 7 when the yacht was lying in Gibraltar harbour: 

I went up on deck 9 , Mr Asquith recorded subsequently,* 'and I re- 
member well that the first sight that met my eyes in the twilight before 
dawn was Halley's comet blazing in the sky. ... I felt bewildered and 
indeed stunned. At a most anxious moment in the fortunes of the State, 
we had lost, without warning or preparation, the Sovereign whose 
ripe experience, trained sagacity, equitable judgment and unvarying 
consideration, counted for so much. . . . Now he had gone. His suc- 
cessor, with all his fine and engaging qualities, was without political 
experience. We were nearing the verge of a crisis almost without 
example in our constitutional history. What was the right thing to do? 9 

An hour later the Enchantress was on her way back to Plymouth. 

At 9.0 a.m. on Monday, May 9, the Accession of King George V 
was proclaimed from the balcony of Friary Court, St. James's Palace. 
The hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, was accompanied 
by Ministers and Privy Councillors in uniform, including Mr Lloyd 
George and Mr Winston Churchill. The proclamation was read by 
Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty, Garter King-of-Arms, supported by Norroy 
King-of-Arms, Windsor Herald, Somerset Herald and the four 
Pursuivants, Rouge Dragon, Bluemantle, Rouge Croix and Port- 
cullis, dressed in their tabards of scarlet, blue and gold. The voice of 
Garter King-of-Arms rang out above the silent crowd: 

'Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late 
Sovereign Lord, King Edward the Seventh, of blessed and glorious 
memory, by whose decease the Imperial Crown of the United King- 
dom of Great Britain and Ireland is solely and rightfully come to the 
High and Mighty Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert: 

'We, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, 
being here assisted by those of his late Majesty's Privy Council, with 
numbers of other principal gentlemen of quality, with the Lord 
Mayor, Aldermen and citizens of London, do now hereby, with one 
voice and content of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim: 

c That the High and Mighty Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert 
is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become 
our only lawful right Liege Lord; George the Fifth by the Grace of 
God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and 
of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Defender of the Faith, 
Emperor of India, to whom we acknowledge all faith and constant 
obedience, with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God, by 
whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Prince George 
the Fifth with long and happy years to reign over us.' 

The silver trumpets sounded and the batteries in the adjoining 
park began to thunder their salute. A single voice in the hushed 

King Edwards funeral 

crowd started to intone the first bars of c God save the King'; the 
hymn was taken up by another voice, and then by a third; in a 
moment the surge of our national anthem rose massively from the 
crowds around St. James's Palace, its rhythm punctuated by the 
crash of guns. 

The two elder princes, Prince Edward and Prince Albert, in their 
uniforms as naval cadets, witnessed the ceremony from the garden 
wall at Marlborough House. They stood at the salute. The King and 
Queen had also, from behind a curtain in an upper bedroom, looked 
down on Friary Court: 

'May & I watched from the window of the boys room. Most touching 
when the crowd sang the National Anthem.' 

On May 17 the coffin of King Edward was taken to Westminster 
Hall, where it was received by the officers of State and the assembled 
Houses of Parliament. For three days and nights it lay in that dim 
nave, the crown, the sceptre and the orb flashing in the light of 
candles as the black and silent crowds filed by. On May 20 the coffin 
was taken to Windsor and lowered into the vault below the Albert 
Memorial Chapel. Beside it, at this final ceremony, stood the German 
Emperor and eight Kings. 1 


On pages 103 and 104 of Chapter VII a rapid outline was 
sketched of the initial stages of the constitutional crisis which had 
cast a shadow over the last weeks of King Edward's life. Some 
recapitulation will now be necessary if any conception is to be con- 
veyed of the strains and stresses to which Mr. Asquith was thereafter 
exposed or of the acute personal predicament in which, at the very 
outset of his reign, the new Monarch became involved. The first 
phase of the conflict between Lords and Commons culminated on 
November 16, 1910, on which date the Government, by threatening 
resignation, extracted a secret pledge from King George that, if need 
arose, he would create a sufficient number of new peers to swamp all 

1 Apart from the German Emperor, King Edward's funeral was 
attended by the Kings of Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Spain, Belgium, 
Greece and Bulgaria. The Dowager Empress of Russia, the Queen 
Dowager of the Netherlands, the Crown Princes of Rumania, Monte- 
negro, Servia and Greece, and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria 
were also present. The United States were represented by ex-President 
Theodore Roosevelt and France by her Foreign Minister, Monsieur 

The Parliamentary position 1910 

possible opposition to the Parliament Bill in the Upper Chamber. 
The second phase, which will be dealt with in the following chapter, 
culminated on August 10, 1911, on which date the House of Lords, 
by a narrow majority, agreed to a drastic curtailment of their 
constitutional powers. The Royal Archives at Windsor throw fresh 
light on each of these transactions. 1 

It will be remembered that in the Parliament elected in 1906 the 
Liberals had outnumbered the Unionists (which was the name then 
generally given to the Conservative Opposition a d their Liberal- 
Unionist allies 2 ) by 210 and possessed a majority of 84 over all the 
other parties combined. In the General Election of January 1910, 
however, the Liberals had lost 104 seats and in the new Parliament 
they held a majority over the Unionists of only two votes. This meant 
that thereafter the Government had to depend on the support of the 
82 Irish Nationalists under Mr. John Redmond and of the 40 mem- 
bers of the Labour Party. Since each of these groups was in general 

1 It may assist the reader, in following this complicated story, to be 
reminded of the main dates: 

1909. November 30. House of Lords reject Mr Lloyd George's Budget. 
December 10. Mr Asquith's Albert Hall speech. 

1910. January 14-28. General Election. Liberals lose 104 seats. 
February 15. New Parliament meets. 

April 14. First reading of Parliament Bill. Asquith's speech. 

April 28. House of Lords passes Budget. 

May 6. Death of King Edward. 

June 17- 

November 1 1 . Constitutional Conference. 
November 1 6. The King gives pledges to Asquith. 
November 28. Dissolution. Second General Election. Little 

1911. Februarys. New Parliament opens. 
February 2 1 . Parliament Bill again introduced. 

May 15. Parliament Bill passes House of Commons. 

July 20. Third reading debate in House of Lords. Asquith 

informs Balfour of King's November pledges. 

August 7. Vote of Censure debates in both Houses. 

August i o. Parliament Bill passed by House of Lords. 
* In 1886 a body of Liberals had voted against Mr Gladstone's first 
Home Rule Bill and formed a third party under the name of 'Liberal 
Unionists'. They consisted of the old Whigs, under Lord Harrington, 
and the Radical Imperialists, under Mr Joseph Chamberlain. In 
1895 the leaders of the Liberal Unionists joined the Conservative Govern- 
ment and this coalition was named 'Unionist'. This name remained the 
official title of the alliance until January 15, 1922, when the Irish Free 
State was established. 

igio Mr Redmond's attitude 

agreement with the policy of the Government, Mr Asquith could 
therefore rely upon a working majority of 124 in the House of 

The Unionists had accepted the verdict of the General Election 
of January 1910 as indicating that the country desired the passage 
of Mr Lloyd George's Budget. That Budget, which had been rejected 
by them in the previous November, was accordingly passed by the 
House of Lords without a division on April 28, 1910. The Unionists 
did not, however, consider that the January election had given the 
Government a mandate to alter the balance of the Constitution or 
to advise the Crown to create a sufficient number of new peers to 
force the Parliament Bill through the Upper Chamber. By the early 
spring of 1910 it was thus generally recognised that a second General 
Election would be necessary before the Government could claim that 
their intention to restrict the powers of the House of Lords reflected 
the will of the electorate. 

The main body of the Liberal Party, together with their Labour 
allies, considered it intolerable that a progressive administration, 
possessing a majority in the House of Commons, should be thwarted 
by an Upper Chamber composed for the most part of Conservative 
Peers. Mr Asquith himself fully shared these feelings. It was inevit- 
able also that, after the election of January 1910, Mr Redmond and 
his party should seek to exploit the tactical advantage given them by 
the balance of parties in the new House of Commons to secure not 
merely the introduction of a Home Rule Bill but also legislation such 
as would prevent the House of Lords from imposing their traditional 
veto upon any such measure. Mr Redmond had in fact indicated* 
that, if a second General Election were to be held, he would not be 
prepared to instruct his supporters to vote for Liberal candidates 
unless the Government undertook to introduce a Home Rule Bill and 
to obtain advance pledges from the Crown. 1 It is none the less an 

1 The implications of the phrase 'advance pledges* (with its many 
variants, such as 'advance assurances 9 , 'contingent guarantees 9 , 'necessary 
safeguards', 'hypothetical understandings 5 and so on) became increasingly 
controversial. On the one hand it was contended that a Government was 
justified, when asking for a dissolution, in obtaining promises from the 
King which would become operative only i as a result of the election, 
that Government were again returned to power. On the other hand it was 
contended that for the King to furnish a Government with such advance 
pledges would be to anticipate the verdict of the electorate and thus to 
favour one side as against the other. 

It was on this conflict of constitutional theory that the issue turned. 


Mr Asquith 9 s pronouncements 
error to suppose that Mr Asquith's policy or actions were dictated 
to him by Mr Redmond. He would have taken exactly the same line 
if no Irish party had existed. 

The Unionists, for their part, exaggerated the pressure being 
exercised upon the Prime Minister by the Irish Party and contended, 
with much bitterness, that Mr Asquith was the prisoner of Mr Red- 
mond, who was exploiting English constitutional difficulties for 
Irish ends. 

During the lifetime of King Edward, Mr Asquith had been able 
to postpone a collision by mingling procrastination with occasional 
pronouncements, designed to assuage, or at least to bewilder, his 
diverse antagonists, supporters and allies. In that it was the disparity 
of these utterances which accounted for much of the confusion which 
ensued, it is well to bear them in mind. 

On December 10, 1909, when inaugurating the campaign which 
preceded the General Election of the following January, Mr Asquith 
had assured an Albert Hall meeting that *we shall not assume office, 
and we shall not hold office, unless we can secure the safeguards 
which experience shows us to be necessary 5 . If this meant anything 
at all, it meant that he would not, if returned, agree to form an 
administration unless he obtained the King's assent to the creation 
of peers. On February 21, 1910, however, having been returned to 
office by a reduced majority, he made the following pronouncement 
in the House of Commons: 

'To ask in advance for a blank authority for an indefinite exercise of 
the Royal Prerogative in regard to a measure which has never been 
submitted to, or approved by, the House of Commons, is a request 
which, in my judgement, no constitutional statesman can properly 
make and it is a concession which the Sovereign cannot be expected 
to grant. 9 

If that meant anything at all, it meant that the Prime Minister 
considered it unconstitutional to demand advance pledges from the 
Sovereign. Yet, as has already been said, in introducing the Parlia- 
ment Bill on April 14, 1910, only three weeks before King Edward's 
death, he committed himself to the following utterance, which was 
not unjustifiably interpreted by his supporters and the Irish as an 
undertaking that, before again going to the country, he would 
demand advance guarantees: 

'Let me add this. In no case shall we recommend Dissolution, except 
under such conditions as will secure that in the new Parliament the 
judgement of the People, as expressed in the Election, will be carried 
into law. 1 

*9 10 Lord Knollys' reticence 

Mr Asquith's consistent purpose was to keep the name of the 
King out of party polemics. Interpreted in the light of that honour- 
able and dominant intention his statements were not as contradictory 
as they seem. At the time, however, they certainly left some confusion 
in the public mind. 

It does not appear that King Edward, before his death, had 
finally decided upon the attitude which he ought to adopt. He 
certainly felt that for the Sovereign to confer peerages upon an 
unspecified number of persons nominated by the Chief Liberal Whip 
would entail a degradation of the Royal Prerogative and the destruc- 
tion of the House of Lords. While at Biarritz he seems to have toyed 
with an ingenious compromise scheme, under which the required 
majority might be obtained by giving peerages to the eldest sons of 
those peers who supported the Liberal Government. But what 
assurance was there that these young men would be either sufficiently 
numerous or sufficiently obedient to secure the passage of the 
Parliament Bill? 

Mr Asquith assumed that, if the worst came to the worst, the 
Monarch must necessarily follow the advice tendered to him by the 
Government in power even at the cost of destroying the House of 
Lords. But there were several responsible persons, including the 
Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Rosebery, who contended that 
it would be the duty of the King to refuse his assent to so revolu- 
tionary a measure. On his return to England, and exactly one 
week before the day of his death, King Edward was informed 
by his Private Secretary, Lord Knollys, that, should he refuse his 
assent to the advice given him by the Government in power, and 
should Mr Asquith thereupon resign, his office, the Leader of 
the Conservative Opposition, Mr A. J. Balfour, would be ready 
to form an alternative administration and to go to the country 
on the constitutional issue. The misfortune was that King Edward 
did not discuss the problem in any detail with his successor; nor did 
Lord Knollys inform King George of Mr Balfour's eventual readi- 
ness to assume responsibility. 1 

King George, therefore, was faced, immediately on his accession, 
with an unprecedented constitutional problem of which he had little 

1 On April 29, 1910, Lord Knollys attended a meeting at Lambeth 
Palace between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Esher and Mr Bal- 
four. A note of the discussion which took place contains the following 
important passages: 'Mr Balfour made it quite dear that he would be 
prepared to form a Government to prevent the King being put in the 
E 129 

The Kings dilemma *9 10 

previous knowledge and in which he was accorded no consistent 
guidance. His father had left him no clear directives; Lord Knollys 
and Sir Arthur Bigge, whom he had appointed joint Private Secret- 
aries, 1 did not see eye to eye in the matter; and his friends over- 
whelmed him with contradictory advice. Unaccustomed as he was 
to ambiguous phraseology he was totally unable to interpret Mr 
Asquith's enigmas. Nor were the historical precedents of much avail. 
Queen Anne it seemed had in 1 7 1 2 created twelve new peers in order 
to avert opposition to the Peace of Utrecht; but that had been a very 
small number and very long ago. William IV in 1832 had, after 
much wriggling, promised Lord Grey to create eighty new Peers in 
order to secure the passage of the Reform Bills. That promise (which 
King William had never actually been called upon to execute) had 
been justified by the overwhelming public demand that the Reform 
Bills should be passed. In the present issue, there was no overwhelm- 
ing popular demand; the British public were comparatively in- 
different to the whole controversy. How could the King be certain 
that, in yielding to Mr Asquith's solicitations, in promising to create 
as many as 500 new Peers (with the added implication of eventual 
Home Rule for Ireland), he would be accurately interpreting the 
considered wishes of the nation? He could not be certain. 


Mr Asquith reached Plymouth in the Enchantress on the evening 
of May 9. On the following morning he was received by the new 

position contemplated by the demand for the creation of Peers' (R A. 
K.2552 (2) 93). 

This note was not brought to the notice of King George until after 
Lord Knollys' retirement three years later. The King then dictated and 
initialled the following revealing minute: 

It was not until late in the year 1913 that the foregoing letters and 
memoranda came into my possession. The knowledge of their contents 
would, undoubtedly, have had an important bearing and influence with 
regard to Mr Asquith's request for guarantees on November 1 6, 1 9 1 o. 

'George R.I.January 7, 1914' 
(R.A. K.2 55 2 (2) 89). 

In spite of Mr* Balfour's assertion of April 29, it is evident from his letter 
to Lord Lansdowne of December 27, 1910, that he would in fact have 
hesitated to form a government if he had been invited. 

1 It was~at Sir Arthur Bigge's suggestion that Lord Knollys, on the 
death of King Edward, was appointed joint Private Secretary to King 
George. This system of dual guidance did not in practice prove satisfactory 
and Lord Knollys relinquished his appointment on March 17, 1913. 

jp/o Inter-Party Conference 

King and the Cabinet was sworn in. He came away from that 
interview 'deeply moved by the King's modesty and good sense'/ 
On May 18 he had a private audience at Buckingham Palace: 

'I gave an audience to the Prime Minister/ King George wrote that 
evening in his diary. *We had a long talk. He said he would endeavour 
to come to some understanding with the Opposition to prevent a 
general election & he would not pay attention to what Redmond said.' 

Mr Asquith immediately got into touch with Mr A. J. Balfour, 
who agreed to a Conference. This unselfish initiative on the part of 
the Prime Minister was much resented by the Irish Nationalists and 
by some of his own more ardent supporters. But at least it gave to 
the new Sovereign a six months' reprieve. 

The first meeting of the Conference was held in the Prime 
Minister's room at the House of Commons on June 17, 1910. The 
Government were represented by Mr Asquith, Lord Crewe, Mr 
Lloyd George and Mr Birrell. The Opposition were represented by 
Mr A. J. Balfour, Lord Lansdowne, Mr Austen Chamberlain and 
Lord Cawdor. At first Mr Asquith took an optimistic view of these 
discussions. c The Conference', he informed the King, *has indicated 
a desire for rapprochement. 9 Twelve meetings were held before Parlia- 
ment rose for the summer recess at the end of July. But as the weeks 
passed, the shock caused by King Edward's death, the common 
desire not to embarrass a new and untried Sovereign, lost something 
of their early emotional and unifying impetus; party faiths, party 
loyalties, above all the party machines, intervened to hamper, and 
finally to disrupt, the unison of these eight men. 

Mr Lloyd George, with his quick surgical intuition, realised 
before long that only a major operation could remove from the body 
politic the accumulated deposits of party dogmas, prejudices and 
commitments. In a striking memorandum which he addressed to Mr 
Asquith on August 17,* he advocated the formation of a Coalition 
Government, by which alone the statesmen, freed from dependence 
on their party extremists, could deal conjointly with the rapidly 
increasing dangers of the internal and external situation. Such a 
Coalition, he intimated, could not only solve the constitutional 
problem, but could also discover some reasonable federal solution of 
the Irish question, combine for general social betterment, and even 
impose upon the country a form of compulsory military training. 
Mr Asquith showed this memorandum to Mr Balfour as well as to 
the five members of his own inner Cabinet* Mr Balfour was not in 
principle opposed to the suggestion, but felt it necessary to consult 


Mr Lloyd George* s idea *9* 

Mr Akcrs Douglas, his former Chief Whip. The latter insisted that any 
such junction with the Liberals would be regarded by the Unionists 
as a betrayal of all they stood for. Mr. BaJfour (remarking sadly 'I 
cannot become another Peel in my Party') was forced to refuse.' 

Mr Lloyd George, to the end of his life, regarded the rejection of 
his suggested Coalition Government as *a supreme instance' of the 
damage done when party politics 'stand seriously in the way of the 
highest national interests' : 

'In the year 1910*, he wrote in his War Memoirs* e we were beset by an 

accumulation of grave issues rapidly becoming graver It was 

becoming evident to discerning eyes that the Party and Parliamentary 
system was unequal to coping with them.' 

He remained for ever convinced (and there is some substance 
in his conviction) that, had his 1910 suggestion not been vetoed by 
the Party machines, there would have been no revolution in Ireland 
and perhaps no German war. 

The Conference, which had opened so auspiciously in June, had 
by the autumn reached a complete deadlock. The Unionists, in their 
initial memorandum, had divided legislation into three separate 
categories: Financial, Ordinary and Constitutional or 'Organic*. As 
regards Finance, they were prepared to abandon the claim of the 
House of Lords to reject money Bills, provided that the House of 
Commons for their part would accept some system under which pure 
Money Bills could be differentiated from Bills which, 'although 
technically dealing with little or nothing but Finance, have social or 
political consequences which go far beyond the mere raising of 
revenue 9 . Some progress was made in devising an agreed tribunal 
which could decide under which definition a particular Money Bill 
was to be classed. 

As regards 'Ordinary* legislation, it was agreed in principle that 
if, under this heading, an irreconcilable conflict arose between the 
House of Commons and the House of Lords, the matter should be 
settled by a Joint Sitting of both Houses. Difficulties then arose as to 
the composition of the delegation which would represent the House 
of Lords at these Joint Sittings. The Government contended that 
such Joint Sittings should be composed of the 670 members of the 
House of Commons plus a delegation of only 100 members from the 
House of Lords, chosen upon some system of proportional repre- 
sentation. The Opposition contended that so restricted a delegation 
of peers was inequitable, but failed to produce any counter-proposal 
of their own. 

/9/o Collapse of the Conference 

As regards Constitutional, or 'Organic', legislation, the Govern- 
ment were willing to offer special safeguards in respect of the 
Monarchy, the Protestant succession and any Act embodying the 
conclusions of the Conference itself. It was under this heading that 
the problem of Home Rule was dealt with and a deadlock reached. 
The Government insisted that, after the first rejection of a Home Rule 
Bill by the House of Lords, a General Election should follow and 
that, if a majority in favour of Home Rule were returned to power, 
then the resultant Bills would be treated as 'Ordinary* and not as 
'Organic' legislation. The Opposition insisted that, after the second 
rejection of a Home Rule Bill by the House of Lords, the Bill should 
be referred directly to the electorate as a straight issue for a plebiscite 
or referendum. Mr Asquith was ill disposed to plebiscites: in fact, 
the very word 'referendum' would cause his usually tolerant features 
to writhe into an expression of contemptuous disgust. It was thus 
mainly on the question of Home Rule that the Conference broke 


By the first week of November 1910, it was recognised that no 
further compromise was possible between the Government and the 
Opposition. The period of reprieve had come to an end. The harsh 
alternatives which had so distressed King Edward during the last 
weeks of his life now confronted his successor. King George was 
faced with the necessity of coming to an immediate decision as to 
what was his constitutional duty in a crisis in regard to which 
the soundest constitutional experts took completely contradictory 

On Friday, November n, Mr Asquith went down to York 
Cottage, Sandringham: 

c At 6.30', the King noted in his diary, 'the Prime Minister arrived. 
Had two long talks with him. He reported that the Conference had 
failed & he proposed to dissolve & have a general election & get it 
over before Xmas. He asked me for no guarantees. I suggested that the 
Veto resolutions should first be sent up to the H. of L. & if they 
rejected them, then he could dissolve. This he agreed to do/ 

This succinct record is confirmed by a minute written on the 
same evening by Sir A. Bigge.* c He did not', Sir Arthur wrote, 'ask 
for anything from the King: no promises, no guarantees during this 
Parliament. 9 A more extended version of the interview was composed 
by Mr Asquith himself on his return to Downing Street:* 

The York Cottage interview 1910 

'Mr Asquith had the honour of being received by the King at Sand- 
ringham on November n. The object of the interview was, not to 
tender any definite advice, but to survey the new situation created by 
the failure of the Conference, as it presents itself at the moment to His 
Majesty's Ministers. . , . 

*Mr Asquith pointed out that this would be the second time in the 
course of twelve months that the question of the relations between the 
two Houses had been submitted to the electorate. It was necessary, 
therefore, that in the event of the Government obtaining an adequate 
majority in the new House of Commons, the matter should be put in 
train for final setdement. 

'This could only be brought about (if the Lords were not ready to 
give way) by the willingness of the Crown to exercise its Prerogative 
to give effect to the will of the nation. The House of Lords cannot be 
dissolved, and the only legal way in which it can be brought into 
harmony with the other House is either by curtailing, or adding to, its 
'members. In theory, the Crown might conceivably adopt the former 
course, by withholding writs of summons. But this has not been done 
for many centuries: it would be a most invidious practice: and it is at 
least doubtful whether it can be said to be constitutional. On the other 
hand, the prerogative of creation is undoubted: it has never been 
recognised as having any constitutional limit: it was used for this pur- 
pose in the eighteenth century, and agreed to be used on a large scale 
by King William IV in 1832. 

'There could in Mr Asquith's opinion be no doubt that the know- 
ledge that the Crown was ready to use the Prerogative would be 
sufficient to bring about an agreement, without any necessity for its 
actual exercise.* 

It is evident from this careful record that Mr Asquith's intention 
had been to warn the King of the attitude of the Government before 
this was crystallised into action by the subsequent meeting of the 
Cabinet and embodied in an official Cabinet Minute. Sir A. Bigge 
was optimistic in supposing that no guarantees would be demanded. 

On Monday, November 14, Lord Knollys travelled up to London 
from Sandringham and went straight from Liverpool Street Station 
to No. 10 Downing Street. He found 'to his surprise* that the Prime 
Minister's intentions were more definite. c What he now advocates', 
wrote Lord Knollys that night to the King, 'is that you should give 
guarantees at once for the next Parliament/' Sir Arthur Bigge was 
instructed the next morning to send the following telegram to Mr 
Vaughan Nash, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary:* 

'His Majesty regrets that it would be impossible for Mm to give 
contingent guarantees and he reminds Mr Asquith of his promise not 
to seek for any during the present Parliament/ 


igio The King 's predicament 

Both the King and the Prime Minister were thus involved in a 
seemingly inextricable predicament. 

The King desired only to follow established constitutional 
practice, and to accept the advice given him by the Government in 
power. It seemed to him, however, that what Mr Asquith was now 
asking him to do was to pledge himself to a definite line of action, on 
the eve of a General Election, and in regard to the very issue upon 
which that election would be fought. There was no constitutional 
precedent. for such blank and post-dated cheques. If the Liberals 
were returned with a majority, then it would be his duty thereafter 
to accept the advice they gave him, however personally reluctant 
he might be to do so. He much resented the implication that in 
such an event he might fail to act constitutionally. But supposing 
that the Unionists and not the Liberals received a majority at the 
impending election? Might they not contend that he had acted un- 
constitutionally in giving advance backing to a policy of which both 
they and the electorate disapproved? If he accepted Mr Asquith's 
suggestion he might thereafter be accused by the Unionists of hav- 
ing assisted the Liberals. If he rejected Mr Asquith's suggestion, he 
would be accused of taking the side of the Unionists. The one thing 
which he wished above all to avoid was being forced into the position 
of taking sides in a party conflict. 

It would have been within his constitutional powers to refuse to 
follow Mr Asquith's advice, to accept his resignation and to invite 
Mr Balfour to form a Government. Lord Knollys assured him that 
Mr Balfour would in any event decline to form an administration. 
This, as has been seen, was an incorrect assumption. But even if Mr 
Balfour accepted, his administration would immediately be out- 
voted in the existing House of Commons and might well fail to 
obtain a majority in the next. The King would then have found 
himself in the invidious position into which William IV had been 
clumsily manoeuvred in 1832. 

Mr Asquith also was encompassed by unpleasant alternatives. 
Being a man of delicate imagination, he fully understood and sym- 
pathised with the distracting conflict of duties by which the King 
was assailed. Yet in the mind of his own party (as his Chief Whip, 
the Master of Elibank, 1 was incessantly reminding him) he was tied 

1 Alexander Murray, Master of Elibank (1870-1920), was Chief 
Liberal Whip from 1909 to 1912. In the latter year he went to the House 
of Lords as Lord Murray of Elibank. Mrs Asquith in her Autobiography 
(II, 145) describes him *as a rare combination of grit and honey'. 


The Cabinet minute 1910 

by the assurance which he had given on April 14, by which he had, 
by all reasonable interpretation of his words, pledged himself not to 
go to the country unless and until he had received previous assurances 
that, if he returned to power, the Royal Prerogative would be imposed 
upon the House of Lords. The Chief Whip pointed out to him that 
if he evaded this pledge, he would be regarded as having betrayed 
his own Party, to say nothing of the Irish and the Socialists. Yet, if he 
announced that he had asked for the guarantees and that they had 
been refused by the King, then the Grown would inevitably be drawn, 
and to a most damaging extent, into the arena of Party controversy. 
The Cabinet, at their meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 
decided to cut this Gordian knot. They addressed to the King the 
following somewhat peremptory minute: 1 

ir The Cabinet has very carefully considered the situation created by the 
failure of the Conference, in view of the declaration of policy made on 
their behalf by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on the 
i4th of April, 1910. 

c The advice which they feel it their duty to tender to His Majesty 
is as follows: 

*An immediate dissolution of Parliament, as soon as the necessary 
parts of the Budget, the provision of Old Age Pensions to paupers, and 
one or two other matters have been disposed of. 

The House of Lords to have the opportunity, if they desired it, at 
the same time (but not so as to postpone the date of the dissolution), 
to discuss the Government Resolutions. 

'His Majesty's Ministers cannot, however, take the responsibility 
of advising a dissolution, unless they may understand that, in the event 
of the policy of the Government being approved by an adequate 
majority in the new House of Commons, His Majesty will be ready to 
exercise his constitutional powers (which may involve the Prerogative 
of creating Peers), if needed, to secure that effect should be given to 
the decision of the country. 

c His Majesty's Ministers are fully alive to the importance of keeping 
the name of the King out of the sphere of party and electoral contro- 
versy. They take upon themselves, as is their duty, the entire and 
exclusive responsibility for the policy which they will place before the 

c His Majesty will doubtless agree that it would be undesirable, in 
the interests of the State, that any communication of the intentions of 
the Crown should be made public, unless and until the actual occasion 
should arise.' 

This Minute was accompanied by a letter from Lord Knollys, 
who was in close contact and sympathy with Mr Asquith and the 
Master of Elibank: 

igio Sir A. JBigge's views 

'I have just finished', he wrote to the King, 111 'a conversation with the 
P.M. and Crewe and they have shown me the Cabinet Minute, which 
I think is couched in studiously moderate terms. I feel certain that you 
can safely and constitutionally accept what the Cabinet propose & I 
venture to urge you strongly to do so. What is now recommended is 
altogether different in every way from any request to be allowed 
publicly to announce that you have consented to give guarantees. It 
is a great compromise on the part of the Cabinet, made entirely to fall 
in as far as possible with your wishes and to enable you to act con- 

'Should you not approve of the proposal, it may be that the matter 
has not been sufficiently explained to you, and in that case, of course, 
I should be quite ready, should you desire it, to go to Sandringham 
tomorrow. Or, and what would be better, if you disagree, perhaps you 
might think it right to come to London to see the P.M. and Crewe. 9 

Lord Knollys also enclosed a letter which he had received that 
morning from the Master of Elibank urging that it was essential to 
'safeguard' the Prime Minister's relations with his own party. 

This letter produced an indignant outburst from Sir Arthur 
Bigge: 7 * 

'I have read', Sir Arthur Bigge informed the Master of Elibank, 'your 
letter to Knollys. Your arguments are naturally made from the Prime 
Minister's position created by his statement of April 14. 

*But the King's position must also be considered. His Majesty fully 
recognises what must be the ultimate solution of the political situation 
if a dissolution takes place and if the Government are returned by an 
adequate majority. But why is he to make any promises now} Why 
should he be asked to deviate by an inch from the strictly constitutional 
path? You reply "to safeguard the Rime Minister" and to avoid the 
King's name being dragged into the vortex of the political contro- 
versies and to prevent a handle being given to the Socialists to attack 
the King. But surely, so long as His Majesty adheres to what is con- 
stitutional, he can be indifferent to whether the Socialists "so furiously 
rage together and imagine a vain thing" or not. His Majesty was 
delighted with the Prime Minister on Friday and especially with his 
assurance that the King would be asked for nothing, no guarantee, no 
promises, during this Parliament. 

*No! I say. If dissolution there must be all right. Then "wait and 
see" what is the voice of the electorate and once more, I repeat, the 
King will do what is right. 9 

In summarising this correspondence for the King, Sir Arthur 
Bigge added his own commentary: 

The King's position is: he cannot give contingent guarantees. For by 
so doing he becomes a Partisan & is placing a powerful weapon in the 
hands of the Irish and Socialists who, assured of the abolition of the 

E2 137 

The King gives the pledges 

veto of the House of Lords, would hold before their electors the 
certainty of ultimate Home Rule & the carrying out of their Socialist 
programme. The Unionists would declare His Majesty was favouring 
the Government and placing them (the Unionists) at a disadvantage 
before their constituencies. Indeed, it is questionable whether His 
Majesty would be acting constitutionally. It is not His Majesty's duty 
to save the Prime Minister from the mistake of his incautious words on 
the I4th of April. 9 
In reply to the Cabinet's suggestion that the pledges should be 

given, but kept secret, Sir Arthur Bigge furnished the King with 

equally trenchant comments: 

'What is the object of the King giving the Cabinet to understand that, 
in the event of the Government being returned with an adequate 
majority in the new House of Commons, he will be ready to exercise 
his constitutional powers, if his intentions are not to be made public until 
the occasion arises? Why should the King not wait until the occasion 
arises?* c ls this straight?' asked Sir Arthur Bigge. e ls it English? 5 'Is it 
not moreover childish? 5 * 
On Wednesday, November 16, the King travelled to London and 

received the Prime Minister and Lord Crewe at Buckingham Palace 

at 3.30 p.m.: 

'After a long talk', he wrote that evening in his diary, 'I agreed most 
reluctantly to give the Cabinet a secret understanding that in the 
event of the Government being returned with a majority at the General 
Election, I should use my Prerogative to make Peers if asked for. I dis- 
liked having to do this very much, but agreed that this was the only 
alternative to the Cabinet resigning, which at this moment would be 

'Francis (Lord Knollys) strongly urged me to take this course & I 
think his advice is generally very sound. I only trust & pray he is right 
tliis time.* 

'I never', recorded Mr Asquith> 'have seen the King to better 
advantage. He argued well and showed no obstinacy. 5 * 

Sir Arthur Bigge was much distressed by this decision. In a 
memorandum which he wrote on his return to Sandringham on 
November 18 he expressed his apprehension :* 

*In less than 48 hours 5 , he wrote, 'Lord Knollys 5 mind has been 
entirely changed, as he was adamant as to any assurance being given; 
today he strofigly urges the King to come to fc secret understanding & 
tells me that by advocating resignation rather titan agree to any under- 
standing I am exposing the King and the Monarchy to the gravest 
dangers. He told die King he would have advised King Edward as he 
had advised King George and that he was convinced his late Majesty 
would have followed his advice. This quoting what a dead person 


igio The King's affection for Mr Asquith 

would do is to me most unfair, if not improper, especially to the King, 
who has such a high opinion of his father's judgment. But might I not 
equally have urged that I was perfectly certain Queen Victoria would 
have done what I advised? ... I solemnly believe that a great mistake 
has been made resulting from a dread, which to say the least has been 
much exaggerated, of danger to the Crown; whereas the real danger 
is to the position of the P.M. In the conversation of the i6th even the 
instability of Foreign Thrones was dragged in to intensify this Bogey! 

'His Majesty has given way! How could he do otherwise, with the 
P.M., the leader of the House of Lords and Lord Knollys assuring him 
he was doing what was right and constitutional? Please God they are 
right and that we may not regret the step taken and find before long 
that fresh demands will be made entailing, either further concessions, 
or resistance resulting in more danger to the Throne than that which 
might have been incurred by a bold, fearless and open line of action in 
the present crisis.* 

It is still not apparent why the device of keeping the King's 
pledge secret should have been regarded as a solution of the diffi- 
culty. When, a few weeks later, the King asked Mr Asquith why he 
had been forced into this secret arrangement, the latter replied that 
in view of the promises he had made on April 14 'it was necessary to 
have definite private assurances, otherwise he would have broken 
his word 9 / The Master of Elibank may have thought that he could, 
by shadowed hint, allay the suspicions of the Party that the Prime 
Minister had gone back upon his undertaking of April 14. Lord 
Knollys may have felt that to keep the pledge a secret might prevent 
the Grown being, at least by any responsible politician, dragged into 
the electoral arena. The King's own opinion was voiced, eleven 
months later, in a conversation with Lord Esher.* 

'What he specially resented was the promise extracted from him in 
November that he would tell no one. He said: "I have never in my life 
done anything I was ashamed to confess. And I have never been 
accustomed to conceal things." * 

King George remained convinced thereafter that in this, the 
first political crisis of his reign, he had not been accorded either the 
confidence or the consideration to which he was entitled. Against 
the Prime Minister personally he retained no rancour whatsoever. 
He realised that Mr Asquith's hand had also been forced. He was 
fully aware of the qualities of mind and heart possessed by that shy 
but greatly gifted man. 




King George's interest in Home and Commonwealth affairs His recrea- 
tions His domesticity The Mylius case The Coronation He 
visits Ireland, Scotland and Wales The investiture of the Prince of 
Wales The renewal of the conflict.between Lords and Commons 
Mr Balfour's indignation Lord Lansdowne's proposals for the 
reform of the House of Lords The results of the General Election of 
December 1910 The Parliament Bill again introduced Lord 
Lansdowne's amendment The November pledges are divulged 
The Lansdowne House meeting The Halsbury Club The Votes 
of Censure The final division of August 10 The King's satisfaction 
with the result. 


ANY monarch, however unambitious he may be, however unaccus- 
tomed to self-assertion or self-display, will be conscious that he 
must inevitably become the symbol, and perhaps the eponym, of a 
given period of history. He will endeavour therefore to give to his 
reign the tone and colour best adapted to his temperament; and will 
prefer, among the varied functions of monarchy, those which are 
most expressive of his own character and in the closest conformity 
with his own tastes and aptitudes. 

There exists in the Round Tower at Windsor a curious document, 
dated September 1910, in the handwriting of Lord Rosebery, who as 
a former Prime Minister possessed the authority of an elder states- 
man and who could also claim the privileges of a family friend. In 
this document Lord Rosebery urges the new monarch to adopt a line 
of his own: 

"The King*, writes Lord Rosebery, e has to start without the advantages 
of his father and with a dear slate; but with this great advantage, that 
he had served in the Navy, and that he knows the Empire and has 
expressed his interest in the Empire by memorable words and deeds. 

'But it is now that he has to give colour and stamp to his reign. He 
will be judged by the next two years. 

*If he wishes to make his reign illustrious, he will have to give up 
the next two years to that task, and give himself up to that and nothing 
else, just as an ambitious and patriotic Minister would do. He must 
make himself fdt all the time. 

i9 10 Lord Rosebery's advice 

'He must make it clear to his subjects that he is earnest and industri- 
ous, as indeed he is. That should be the stamp of his reign. He should 
show that he is willing to deny himself any pleasure to do his duty; 
more, that he is ready to do anything disagreeable to himself. This is 
a hard saying, but most truths are hard. 

'There is something harder still. He must remember that every 
word of a King is treasured in this country as if it were God's; that he 
cannot speak without the chance of his words being noted, and carried, 
even by servants. To his intimate friends he can no doubt unbosom 
himself, but even this with precaution. . . . 

'Besides devotion to duty and reticence there is something else to be 
noted, and that is the instinct of striking the imagination.* 

Much as he admired the part which his father played in inter- 
national affairs, King George realised from the outset that it would 
be impossible for him to repeat, and imprudent for him to imitate, a 
r61e for which he was so little fitted by predilection or experience. This 
was a wise decision. Although the initiative taken by King Edward 
in foreign policy has been much exaggerated (especially by German 
publicists), it is an undoubted fact that his frequent visits to the 
Continent and his repeated conversations with foreign potentates 
and statesmen were regarded as official acts which, although 
generally beneficial, might, in less adept hands, have become 
embarrassing. Already, in the House of Commons, some uneasiness 
had been manifested regarding the diplomatic activity in which 
King Edward (often unaccompanied by a responsible Minister) 
delighted to indulge. King George had no inclinations towards 
diplomacy and, unlike his father, was bored by foreigners. He thus 
decided to concentrate upon those whom he knew and understood: 
upon his own people of Great Britain, upon his own people in the 
Empire and the Dominions: 

'A week of intimate talks 5 ,* recorded Lord Esher from Balmoral in 
August 1910, 'with the King and Queen. He is brave and frank. He 
told me very sincerely his aim* and ideals. He means to do for the 
Empire what King Edward did for the peace of Europe. He proposes 
to attend himself the Indian Durbar in January 191 1 and crown him- 
self at Delhi. He means to visit every Dominion. These are bold pro- 
jects. There will be difficulties with Ministers. Still, he may find a 

It was with this in mind that, after his coronation, he went to 
Ireland, Wales and Scotland; that he undertook the voyage to 
India; and that from the outset of his reign he sought to identify the 
monarchy with the needs and the pleasures of ordinary people, pay- 
ing repeated visits to industrial centres, attending football matches, 


The Kings domesticity 19/0 

driving through the poorer districts of London, and visiting miners 
and workers in their homes. 

It is not here intended to deal in any detail with King George's 
private tastes and occupations; these aspects of his life have been 
fully described in Mr John Gore's Personal Memoir. Yet if we are to 
form any true estimate of his ability, it must be emphasised that in 
each of his three favourite recreations he achieved unquestioned 
supremacy. As a stamp-collector, he was the equal of any of the 
world's philatelists. As a yachtsman, he knew as much about sail- 
ing as the most veteran of the Cowes specialists. And he was 
recognised as one of the best shots in England, with whom only Lord 
Ripon and Sir Harry Stonor could compete. It is distinctive to be 
supreme even in a single hobby; to be a recognised authority in three 
such different hobbies indicates unusual gifts of concentration, 
memory and persistence. 

King Edward, with his lavish love of pageantry, had done much 
to restore to the monarchy the splendour which had been shrouded 
during the widowhood and prolonged retirement of Queen Victoria. 
King George attached full importance to the ceremonial aspects of 
monarchy; he was well aware that pomp, if it is to retain its symbol- 
ism and its magic, must be, not magnificent merely, but meticulously 
ordered and planned. He had no tolerance for ceremonial ineffi- 
ciency. Yet in his private life he preferred more homely ways: 

'His domesticity and simple life', writes Lord Esher* 'are charming. 
The King allows people to sit after dinner, whether he is sitting or not. 

There is no pomp There is not a card in the house.' * 'You have 

no ideaV Lord Esher wrote a few months later from Windsor, 'of the 
change that has come over this place. We are back in Victorian times. 
Everything so peaceful and domestic. Early rides at 8.30! The King 
sits mostly in a tent below the East Terrace. He works in his room all 
the morning.* 

Although he would increasingly enjoy his periodic visits to 
Windsor, although Balmoral provided him with varied opportunities 
for sport, although early in 1911 he left Marlborough House for 
Buddngham Palace, it was York Cottage which still remained for 
him the intimate home, beloved above all others. Queen Alexandra 
retained the big house at Sandringham until her death in 1925. 

1 This was an over-statement. There was no ban on card-playing in the 
Royal household. King George himself would occasionally take a hand at 
bridge. He did not share, however, his fathers enjoyment of that pastime 
and preferred a quiet evening at home, when he could read aloud to the 

The Mylius case 

King George and Queen Mary continued to live at York Cottage, 
which they persisted in regarding as convenient, suitable and, in its 
own little way, impressive: 

'They showed me', Archbishop Lang had written some years before, 
'over their little house with a quite charming and almost naive keen- 
ness. It might have been a curate and his wife in their new home!' d 

To those who had for years been impelled by social appetites to 
circle around the fringe of smart society, these modest contentments 
seemed ridiculously middle-class. The scented and bejewelled para- 
dise, to gain admittance to which they had expended so much wealth 
and energy, had receded suddenly and melted into the haze of a 
period piece. They would refer slightingly to the new order as *this 
sweeter, simpler, reign*. But the older aristocracy and the great body 
of public opinion welcomed this return to the more sober English 
standards of felicity. These were the feelings which King George 
and Queen Mary reflected, represented and enhanced. 

In thus striving to set an example of domestic propriety he was, 
however, hampered by a strange legend which had for years been 
clouding his repute. In the first year of his reign he was given the 
opportunity to exterminate this legend. 

A journalist of the name of Edward Mylius had published in the 
Liberator (a seditious publication issued in Paris but circulating in 
England and overseas) the story that, when in Malta in 1890, King 
George had contracted a secret marriage with the daughter of an 
English admiral. The imputation was that his marriage with Qjieen 
Mary was therefore bigamous and that the children of that marriage 
were illegitimate. Mylius was arrested for criminal libel and tried 
before the Lord Chief Justice and a special jury on February i, 191 i. 
It was proved at the trial that King George had not been in Malta 
in 1890 and that the Admiral in question possessed only two daugh- 
ters, one of whom had never seen the King at all, and the other of 
whom had met him only twice, first when she was eight years old 
and on a second occasion, long after both she and he were married. 
Mylius was convicted and given twelve months* imprisonment. He 
was released on December 3 of the same year, 

The whole story*, the King wrote in his diary for February i, 1911, 
'is a damnable lie and has been in existence now for over twenty years. 
I trust that this will settle it once and for all.' 

Queen Alexandra was even more indignant. She wrote to him 
from Sandringham on February 4: 


The Coronation ign 

Thank Gkxl that vile trial is over and those infamous lies and foul 
accusations at an end for ever & cleared up before the whole world. 
To us all it was a ridiculous story yr having been married before . . .! 
Too silly for words but as the public seems to have believed it, this 
trial was the only way to let them hear & know the truth, and so have 
your good name vindicated for ever. My poor Georgie really it was 
too bad and must have worried you all the same. It is hard on the best 
people like you, who really have steered so straight in your life, to be 
accused of such base things makes me furious & many bad people 
who really are known to lead the worst of lives are never mentioned or 
attacked ever. ... It only shows how unfair the world is & how the 
wicked love to slander the upright and good & try to drag them down 
to their own level.' 


King George's coronation took place on the morning of Thurs- 
day, June 22, 191 1. With the Queen beside him he drove in his great 
coach from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. From the 
west door of the Abbey he walked in slow procession to the theatre, 
or pulpitum, which, as prescribed by the Liber Regalis of 1307, had 
been set 'between the high altar and the choir, near the four high 
pillars in the cross of the said church'. This procession, or proceed- 
ing 9 , was headed by the Chaplains in Ordinary, the Domestic 
Chaplains, the Prebendaries of Westminster, the Heralds and the 
officers of the Orders of Knighthood. There followed the standards 
of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and India, each 
carried by a former Governor-General. The standard of England 
was borne by Mr Frank Dymoke, hereditary King's champion, that 
of Wales by Lord Mostyn, that of Scotland by Colonel Scrymgeour- 
Wedderburn, that of Ireland by O'Conor Don. The standard of 
the Union was carried by the Duke of Wellington, the Royal 
standard by Lord Lansdowne. Then came the King's regalia St. 
Edward's staff, the sceptre with the cross, the two golden spurs, the 
sword of temporal justice carried by Lord Kitchener, the sword of 
spiritual justice carried by Lord Roberts, c Curtana', or the sword of 
mercy, carried by the Duke of Beaufort, the orb, the sceptre with the 
dove, St Edward's crown. 1 Immediately in front of the King, the 
Bishops of London, Ripon and Winchester, carried the Paten, the 
Bible and the Chalice. The King in^ his crimson robe of State was 

1 Most of the ancient regalia were destroyed by Cromwell's orders in 
1 649. The Ampulla and the Spoon (which is said to date from King John) 
appear to have survived. 

ign The Abbey ceremony 

flanked by twenty Gentlemen-at-Arms and his train was borne by 
eight young pages. There followed the high officers of the household 
and the procession was closed by twenty Yeomen of the Guard. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, advancing successively to the 
four sides of the theatre, to east and west and south and north, 
demanded recognition: 'Sirs, I present unto you King George, the 
undoubted King of this Realm: wherefore, all you who are come 
this day to do your homage and service. Are you willing to do the 
same? 5 At which the trumpets sounded, the boys of Westminster 
School cried 'Vivat Rex* and the congregation murmured c God 
Save the King 9 . 

Then began the ancient ritual, ordained by the practice of a 
thousand years. 1 The King, kneeling before the altar and laying his 
hand upon the Bible, took the coronation oath. He swore to 'cause 
law and justice, in mercy to be executed in all his judgments'; he 
swore to maintain the Protestant religion and the established church; 
he swore to 'govern the people of this United Kingdom of Great 
Britain and Ireland, and the Dominions thereto belonging, accord- 
ing to the statutes in Parliament agreed on and the respective laws 
and customs of the same 9 . 

The choir began to intone the anthem 'Zadok the priest and 
Nathan the prophet' and the King, having been divested of his robe 
and cap of state, advanced to the altar for his anointing. The Arch- 
bishop, having poured the consecrated oil from the ampulla, 
anointed the King upon his head and breast and hands, while four 
Knights of the Garter held above him a canopy of cloth of gold. The 
King was then invested with the Golobium Sindonis and the Super- 
tunica, the Lord Great Chamberlain touched his heels with the 
golden spurs, and he was girt with the sword of state. He then 
assumed the Armill an*d the Robe Royal or Pall of Gold and seated 
himself upon King Edward's chair. 8 The Archbishop put the ruby 

1 The Coronation ceremony falls into four successive phases, each of 
which possesses historical symbolism, namely: (a) The Recognition, which 
derives from the ancient procedure of recognition by the Witan; (b) The 
Oath, which symbolises a contract between the King and his peoples; 
(c) The Anointing, which represents consecration by the Church; (d) The 
Homage of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal (but not, it will be noted, 
of the Commons), which is a feudal survival. 

2 The Coronation Throne, known as 'King Edward's Chair*, contained 
the 'stone of destiny' which in 1296 King Edward I removed from the 
Abbey of Scone in Scotland. According to the legend it was on this stone 
that the patriarch Jacob rested his head when he dreamt that he saw a 


ring on the fourth finger of the King's right hand, the Lord of the 
Manor of Worksop presented the gloves and the Archbishop 
delivered into the King's right hand the sceptre with the cross and 
into his left the sceptre with the dove. The Archbishop, standing 
before the altar, dedicated St Edward's Crown: 

Then', runs the order of ceremony, 'the Archbishop, with the Arch- 
bishop of York and the other Bishops, will come from the Altar; and 
the Archbishop, having received the Crown from the Dean of West- 
minster, will reverently place it on His Majesty's Head; when the people 
with loud and repeated shouts will cry: "God Save the King"; the Peers 
putting on their Coronets, and the Kings of Arms, their Crowns; the 
Trumpets sounding, the Drums beating, and, at a signal given, the 
Great Guns of the Tower, and the Guns in the Park, being shot off.' 

Thereafter followed the Homage. Archbishop Davidson first paid 
homage for himself and the Lords Spiritual. He was succeeded by 
the young Prince of Wales who, kneeling before his father, recited 
the words: 

'I Edward Prince of Wales do become your liege man of life and 
limb and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto 
you, to live and die against all manner of folks. So help me God. 5 
The Prince then rose, touched the crown upon his father's head and 
kissed him on the left cheek. The Peers in their order then did 
homage, being represented for the purpose by the senior of each 

Queen Mary was then anointed, crowned and enthroned. At 
the moment of her crowning, the peeresses, with a lovely conjoint 
movement of their arms, assumed their coronets. After a short 
Communion service and a few further prayers the ritual was con- 
cluded. The King and Queen both wearing their crowns returned in 
procession to the west door of the Abbey where they entered their 
golden coach. In his left hand the King carried the orb and in his 
right the sceptre with the cross. The Queen bore in her right hand 
her sceptre with the cross and in her left hand the sceptre with the 

King George was a religious man: for him this ancient ritual was 
an act of dedication. The blare of trumpets, the salvos of artillery, 
the archaic ceremony, the swell of anthems, the jewelled emblems, 
the hierophantic vestments in which he was successively arrayed, 

ladder reaching into heaven. Since the thirteenth century all the English 
Sovereigns have been crowned seated above this stone. Even Oliver Crom- 
well made use of it at Ms installation as Lord Protector. 

An act of dedication 

even the thin shafts of sunlight falling upon the fawn and azure 
hangings, upon the lords and prelates as they passed and repassed 
across the blue carpet in their robes of scarlet, ermine and gold: 
all this was no more than an almost unrealised background to the 
sacred fact that he was being consecrated to the service of his peoples, 
to whom, kneeling alone before the altar, he had sworn a grave oath. 
He was not a man who was able or accustomed to express, at 
least in writing, the emotions which he felt most deeply, The written 
word was not his language. His own record of the Coronation is 
almost disconcertingly restrained : 

c Thursday 9 June 22nd. Our Coronation Day. Buckingham Palace. It was over- 
cast & cloudy with some showers & a strongish cool breeze, but better 
for the people than great heat. Today was indeed a great & memorable 
day in our lives & one we can never forget, but it brought back to me 
many sad memories of 9 years ago, when the beloved Parents were 
crowned. May & I left B.P. in the Coronation coach at 10.30 with 
8 cream-coloured horses. There were over 50,000 troops lining the 
streets under the command of Lord Kitchener. There were hundreds 
of thousands of people who gave us a magnificent reception. The 
Service in the Abbey was most beautiful, but it was a terrible ordeal. 
It was grand, yet simple & most dignified and went without a hitch. I 
nearly broke down when dear David came to do homage to me, as it 
reminded me so much when I did the same thing to beloved Papa, he 
did it so well. Darling May looked lovely & it was indeed a comfort to 
me to have her by my side, as she has been ever to me during these 
last eighteen years. We left Westminster Abbey at 2.15 (having arrived 
there before 1 1.0) with our Crowns on and sceptres in our hands. This 
time we drove by the Mall, St. James 5 Street & Piccadilly, crowds 
enormous & decorations very pretty. On reaching B.P. just before 
. 3.0 May & I went out on the balcony to show ourselves to the people. 
Downey photographed us in our robes with Crowns on. Had some 
lunch with our guests here. Worked all the afternoon with Bigge & 
others answering telegrams & letters of which I have had hundreds. 
Such a large crowd collected in front of the Palace that I went out on 
the balcony again. Our guests dined with us at 8.30. May & I showed 
ourselves again to the people. Wrote & read. Rather tired. Bed at 
1 1 .45. Beautiful illuminations everywhere.' 

On the next day the King and Queen drove in an open carriage 
through the streets of London. C A wonderful drive/ he wrote, 'a sight 
which I am sure could never be,seen in any other country in the 
world/ On June 24 came the naval review at Spithead and on June 
29 a Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul's. *We are deeply touched,* 
the King wrote in his diary, *by the great affection and loyalty shown 
towards us.' On June 30 the King and Queen gave an immense tear- 


Ireland and Wales 19** 

party to 100,000 London children in the Crystal Palace; 'their 
cheers', he wrote, 'were quite deafening. 5 After a few days' rest at 
Windsor he went, on July 7, upon a short state visit to Ireland. As 
the Royal yacht entered Kingstown, he had a sentimental twinge 
on recognising, among the ships saluting in the harbour, H.M.S. 
Thrush^ his humble little gunboat of twenty years before. The Dublin 
visit was a triumphant success. King George, as has been said, 
always cherished the theory (perhaps the illusion) that there existed 
between the Irish people and the Grown a bond of understanding 
independent of politics and parties. The Dublin crowds greeted him 
with vigorous enthusiasm; the warmth of their salutations may have 
been enhanced by the prospect that some measure of Home Rule 
would now at last be placed upon the statute book. The King, after 
so rapturous a welcome, could not have conceived it possible that 
he would never visit Dublin again. 

Mr Uoyd George, with his vivid Celtic imagination, had sug- 
gested that the intended visit to Wales should be made the occasion 
of a local pageant and that the Prince of Wales should formally be 
invested at Carnarvon Castle in the presence of 10,000 Welsh. The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer went so far as to coach the young 
Prince in a few sentences of the Welsh language, including the words 
'Mor o ganyw Cymru i gyd*, meaning C A11 Wales is a sea of song. e 

The investiture of the Prince of Wales took place, as arranged, on 
July 13. "The dear boy*, his father noted, 'did it all remarkably well 
and looked so nice/ Mr Lloyd George also was much pleased. 

The sunshine of these jubilations did not remain for long un- 
clouded. The King recorded in his diary that on the evening of that 
very July 13 he had 'an important conversation with the Prime 
Minister about the political situation'. Four days later we find the 
following entry dated from Holyrood Palace at Edinburgh: 

c Saw Francis (Lord Knollys) who had just come from London & had 
a long talk with him about the political crisis, which is becoming most 
disagreeable & giving me a lot of worry & anxiety.* 

The battle between Lords and Commons had, after the trace 
imposed by the Coronation festivities, been resumed. It was entering 
its final phase. The King returned to Buckingham Palace on July 21. 


It will be recalled that when, on November 16, 1910, the King 
had given the advance pledges demanded by Mr Asquith, he had 
done so in the belief that the leader of the Opposition would be 


Mr Balfour's protest 

unable and unwilling to form an alternative administration. Lord 
Knollys, as has been shown, had little justification for assuming that 
this was in truth Mr Balfour's attitude and decision/ When, in July 
1911, the fact was divulged that the November pledges had been 
demanded and obtained, Mr Balfour repudiated this assumption 
with asperity: 

C I hear', he wrote to Lord Stamfordham 1 on August i, 1911,* 'that you 
and others in confidential relations with the King state that I had 
intimated that, at the time the Prime Minister obtained the Pledges, 
I could not and would not take office. 

C I have to remark on this statement (i) that I was not asked; and (2) 
that I was in complete ignorance of all that was going on between the 
King and his Ministers: which indeed I never learned till about three 
weeks ago. 

'If I had been told that the Kong was being pressed to give a 
promise to coerce the House of Lords into passing a Parliament Bill, 
seven or eight months before the Parliament Bill could reach the final 
stages, and if I had been requested to form a Government, I should 
have of course complied, though with very grave doubts as to the view 
which the country would have taken on the subject. Had I been 
asked, on the other hand, to form a Government in order to protect 
His Majesty from giving a promise, not merely that a Parliament 
Bill should be passed over the heads of the Lords, but that it should 
be passed in a form which by implication carried Home Rule with 
it, I should not only have formed a Government, but I should have 
had great hopes of carrying the country with me.' 

This letter from the Royal Archives is quoted, not merely because 
it reveals one of the accidental misunderstandings of history, but 
because Mr Balfour's evident indignation illustrates the feeling, 
then widely prevalent in Unionist circles, that the Prime Minister 
. had forced the King to give promises which were to the advantage of 
the Liberal administration and party. Apart from their partisan 
emotions, apart from their congenital dread of Home Rule, the 
Unionists felt, and with some justification, that the Royal Preroga- 
tive, and with it the prestige of the Crown, were being exposed to 
unwarranted humiliation. The King was regarded as the fount of 
honour* Was it right that he should be forced, under the menace of 
resignation, to stultify his position and to render himself a puppet in 
the eyes of foreign potentates by conferring peerages upon some 500 
unknown and unnamed gentlemen selected by the Master of Eli- 
bank? It was not right. 

1 Sir A. Bigge had been raised to the peerage as Lord Stamfordham in 

Lord Landowners proposals 1910-1911 

Unless these underlying feelings of suspicion and resentment are 
borne in mind, it is difficult to explain the apparently reckless 
intemperance thereafter manifested by the more sedulous Unionists. 
Mr Balfour personally was a vague, and therefore tolerant, man. It 
was said that he 'forgot everything but forgave nothing*. He cer- 
tainly never forgave Lord Knollys. 

It is now necessary to resume the narrative of the constitutional 
crisis from the point where it was left on November 16, 1910. The 
pledges having been obtained under the threat of resignation, the 
Dissolution of Parliament was announced for November 28. Lord 
Lansdowne, the leader of the Unionist Party in the House of Lords, 
proposed that the Parliament Bill should, before the election, be pre- 
sented to the Upper Chamber and that he should himself, at the 
same time, introduce his own scheme for House of Lords Reform. 
Only by this method, Lord Lansdowne argued, could the electors 
know exactly what were the issues on which they were expected to 
vote. The Government were at first unwilling to agree to this sug- 
gestion but the King persuaded them to do so.* The Bill was there- 
fore introduced into the House of Lords on November 16 and a 
second reading given on November 21. Two days later Lord Lans- 
downe stated that it would be useless for the Lords to proceed with 
any further discussion of the Parliament Bill, since there would be 
now no time before the election to take it in Committee stage. He, 
on the same afternoon, introduced his own reform proposals. 

The preamble to the Parliament Bill had announced the inten- 
tion of the Government 'to substitute for the House of Lords as it at 
present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular, instead of 
a hereditary, basis*. The supporters of the Government ceased to be 
enamoured of this statement once they saw it in cold print. They 
realised that no Second Chamber, whether elective or selective, 
could ever be so conveniently vulnerable as a hereditary House of 
Lords: a more democratically constituted Chamber might command 
greater prestige and claim greater powers; the horrid spectre of the 
American Senate began to dance before their eyes. Lord Lans- 
downe's proposals, as his subsequent 'Reconstitution Bill*, died a 
natural death. 1 The ground was thereby cleared for the election. 

1 Lord Lansdowne's proposals of November 25, 1910, and his 'Recon- 
stitution Bill' of May 8, 1911, embodied the following principles: The 
reconstituted House of Lords was to consist of 350 'Lords of Parliament* 
composed as follows: (i) 100 to be chosen by their fellow peers on the 
ground of merit; (2) 120 to be elected, on proportional representation, by 


The amendments rejected 

The General Election of December 1910 produced results little 
different from those of the previous January. 1 The Liberals and 
Unionists were now exactly balanced with 272 seats each; Mr 
Asquith's majority of 126 was thereafter entirely composed of his 
Labour and Irish allies. The Government had in fact received only 
350,000 more votes than their opponents, a majority which, as Lord 
Hugh Cecil was not slow to remind them, scarcely constituted a 
sufficient mandate for the introduction of 'revolutionary' legislation. 

The new Parliament was opened by the King on February 6, 
1911; the Parliament Bill was introduced on February 21 and the 
Committee stage was reached on March 2. The Bill in its final form 
passed the House of Commons on May 15 by 362 votes to 241* It 
reached the House of Lords on May 23 and passed the second read- 
ing without a division on May 29. The Coronation festivities then 
imposed a pause. 

On July 4 the battle was resumed. On that date. Lord Lans- 
downe brought forward his amendment to Clause II. Under this 
amendment any Bill which affected the Crown or the Protestant 
succession, which made provision for Home Rule in Ireland, Scot- 
land or Wales, or which raised an issue c of great gravity on which 
the judgement of the country has not sufficiently been ascertained" 
should not become law c unless and until it has been submitted to, 
and approved by, the electors in a manner to be hereafter provided 
by Act of Parliament*. 

The Bill, as thus amended, was passed by the House of Lords on 
July 24. The Cabinet had already decided that the Lords amend- 
ments completely altered the whole nature of the Bill and must be 
rejected as a whole by the House of Commons. They therefore 
informed the King that a deadlock had been reached and that, as a 
third dissolution was manifestly impossible, c it had become their 

the House of Commons; (3) 100 to be nominated by the Crown on the 
recommendation of the Prime Minister; (4) Bishops and ex-officio Lords 
of Parliament. 

Lord Morley made it clear to their Lordships that, whether the Re- 
constitution Bill was adopted or not, the Parliament Bill would be imposed 
upon them. This gave e an air of unreality' to the debate on Lord Lans- 
downe's scheme. It was given a second reading in the House of Lords and 
thereafter passed into oblivion. 

Lord Lansdowne's reform proposals were referred to at the time as 
'this death-bed repentance*. Mr Asquith, speaking at Hull on November 
25, i gio r dismissed them as 'to all intents and purposes a ghost'. 

1 The figures were Liberals 272, Unionists 272, Labour 42, Irish 84. 


The November pledges divulged 

duty to advise the Grown to exercise its Prerogative so as to get rid of 
the deadlock and to secure the passage of the BillV It was this 
advice which, on his return to London from Edinburgh on July 21, 
faced the King with a renewal of his predicament. His one hope was 
that a sufficient number of peers and prelates would be wise enough 
to follow Lord Lansdowne and abstain from voting, thereby sparing 
him the humiliation which he feared. 


Early in July, Lord Derby, and subsequently Lord Midleton, had 
warned the King that a large number of Unionists remained con- 
vinced that the Government were bluffing and that the Prime 
Minister would hesitate, when it came to the moment, to invoke the 
Royal Prerogative. Accordingly, on July 19, Lord Knollys, with Mr 
Asquith's consent, informed Mr Balfour Df the purport of the Novem- 
ber pledges. Mr Balfour asked for a statement in writing. Onjuly 20, 
therefore, he received the following letter from the Prime Minister: 

4 I think it only courteous and right, before any public decisions are 
announced, to let you know how we regard the political situation. 

'When the Parliament Bill, in the form which it has now assumed, 
returns to the House of Commons, we shall be compelled to ask the 
House to disagree with the Lords amendments. 

'In the circumstances, should the necessity arise, the Government 
will advise the King to exercise his Prerogative to secure the passing 
into Law of the Bill in substantially the same form in which it left the 
House of Commons, and His Majesty has been pleased to signify that 
he will consider it his duty to accept and act on that advice.' 

On Friday, July 21, a meeting of 200 Unionist peers was sum- 
moned at Lansdowne House. Lord Lansdowne argued that, in view 
of the King's pledge, it would no longer be possible for the House 
of Lords c to offer effectual resistance*. To persist to the point at 
which some 500 new peers might have to be created would render 
the Upper House ridiculous and destroy for ever whatever power or 
prestige it might, even under the Parliament Bill, still retain. He 
was supported by Lord St Aldwyn and Lord Gurzon. Lord Halsbury, 
Lord Sdborne, Lord Milner and others stated that they would prefer 
'to die in the last ditch 9 . 

On the same day the Cabinet "decided that on the following 
Monday, July 24, the Lords amendments should be rejected without 
further reference to the Upper Chamber and that the King should at 
once be asked to create new peers. This decision was communicated 


to the King in a Cabinet letter of Saturday, July 22, and provoked 
the following reply, written by Lord Knollys under the King's 

'The King did not receive your Cabinet letter yesterday until after he 
had seen you. 

*He now desires me to say that he has never understood that you 
proposed to recommend that a creation of peers should take place 
previous to the Parliament Bill being referred to the House of Lords 
after the rejection of their amendments by the House of Commons, so 
as to give the former House the opportunity of considering the reasons 
of the House of Commons objecting to them, the amendments. 

'This, H.M. believes, would be in accordance with the procedure 
usually followed in the case of a "difference" between the two Houses, 
and he is confident that on the present occasion especially, it would be 
a mistake, from a tactical point of view alone, to depart from it. 

'He has been fully under the impression that the peers would as far 
as possible be conciliated by every reasonable attention and civility 
being shown to them; and it is repugnant to his feelings that they 
should be treated with a want of consideration, or harshly, or cavalier- 
ly. To do so, moreover, will probably have the effect of increasing the 
number of those who intend to vote. 

'He is afraid therefore that, unless you are able to give him some 
good reasons in support of your proposal, he will be unable to agree 
to it. The King believes also that to reject the amendments en bloc by 
the House of Commons will likewise help to increase the irritation 
among the Unionist peers.* 

The Prime Minister deferred immediately to the King's wishes* 

The situation was daily becoming more tense and political 
passions more inflamed. The King confided to his diary that he was 
feeling 'greatly depressed and worried*. Lord Halsbury was hourly 
gaining new recruits to his 'last-ditcher* revolt against Lord Lans- 
downe's leadership and guidance. In the House of Commons he had 
by then secured an ardent band of followers, including Lord Hugh 
Cecil, Mr George Wyndham, Sir Edward Carson and Mr F. E. 
Smith. On Monday, July 24, when the Prime Minister rose in the 
House of Commons to make his statement, he was howled down 
amid scenes of such disorder that the Speaker, in pursuance of 
Standing Order 2 1 , felt obliged to adjourn the House. 

'The ugliest feature 9 , Mr Winston Churchill wrote to the King, Svas 
the absence of any real passion or spontaneous feeling. It was a squalid, 
frigid, organised attempt to insult the Prime Minister/ 

On Tuesday, July 25, the supporters of Lord Halsbury gave a 
dinner to their veteran leader at die Hotel Cecil. A telegram from 


The vote of censure 

Mr Joseph Chamberlain was read to the assembled Unionists 
urging no surrender. Mr Austen Chamberlain, in replying to the 
toast of The House of Commons', referred to 'this revolution, 
nurtured in lies, promoted by fraud, and only to be achieved by 
violence'. The Prime Minister, he contended, had 'tricked the 
Opposition, entrapped the Crown and deceived the people'. Such 
was the enthusiasm aroused by this dinner-party that the younger 
Unionists proposed then and there to drag Lord Halsbury in 
triumph from the Strand to No. 4 Ennismore Gardens. They 
only desisted from this project when it was pointed out to 
them that such a journey might prove tiring for a man of eighty- 

On August 7 Mr Balfour, in the House of Commons, moved a 
vote of censure on the Government, on the ground that the advice 
which they had given to the King was 'a gross violation of Con- 
stitutional Liberty*. That vote was lost by 246-365. On the same day 
a similar vote of censure in the House of Lords was carried by 281- 
68. Speaking in that debate, Lord Crewe, for the Government, 
stated that the King had given the November pledges with 'natural 
and legitimate reluctance'. This chivalrous statement confirmed the 
last-ditchers in their obsession that the Government were bluffing 
and that at the last moment the King would refuse. Lord Stam- 
fordham was alarmed by this new danger. On the morning of 
August 10, the day on which the final vote would have to be taken 
in the House of Lords, he wrote to Lord Morley, referring to the 
'fixed and obstinate belief of the last-ditchers, and stating that it was 
imperative 'to dispel this false idea' : 

Tor this reason, the King authorised me to suggest that some state- 
ment might be made by you to the effect that in the event of the Bill 
being defeated the King would agree to a creation sufficient to guard 
against any possible combination of the Opposition by which the 
measure could again be defeated.' * 

The night of August 10, 1911, was one of the hottest on record; 
the thermometer during the day had registered 100. In a packed and 
stifling Chamber the long controversy between Lords and Commons 
drew to its end. Up to the last moment, in spite of powerful speeches 
by Lord Curzon and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the issue 
remained in doubt. Lord Morley rose and, drawing from his pocket 
the statement which he had agreed to with Lord Stamfordham, read 
it slowly aloud. There was a moment of intense silence and then a 
peer asked him to read it again. He did so, adding the words: 'Every 


igu The Lords surrender 

vote given against my motion will be a vote for a large and prompt 
creation of peers.'* I 

The Division was taken in an atmosphere of strained excitement. 
At 10.40 p.m. the tellers announced the final figures. The Govern- 
ment had won by a majority of seventeen votes. Apart from their 
own eighty supporters, they had received the votes of 13 prelates 
and 37 Unionist peers. Lord Lansdowne and his supporters had 
abstained. c We were beaten', exclaimed Mr George Wyndham, 'by 
the Bishops and the Rats.' The Observer, on the following Sunday, 
denounced 'the ignoble band, clerical and lay, of Unionist traitors, 
who had made themselves Redmond's helots'. 

The King at Buckingham Palace had been awaiting the verdict 
with impatient anxiety: 

e At ii.o,' he wrote in his diary, 'Bigge returned from the House of 
Lords with the good news that the Parliament Bill had passed with a 
majority of 1 7. So the Halsburyites were thank God beaten! It is indeed 
a great relief to me & I am spared any further humiliation by a 
creation of peers. . . . Bigge and Francis have indeed worked hard for 
this result.' 

The next day he left for Yorkshire: 

C I am afraid 5 , he wrote to Lord Stamfordham on August i6, m 'it is 
impossible to pat the Opposition on the back, but I am indeed grateful 
for what they have done & saved me from a humiliation which I 
should never have survived. If the creation had taken place, I should 
never have been the same person again. 9 

1 Sir Almeric Fitzroy in his Memoirs (II, pp. 457-458) records a con- 
versation with Lord Morley which well illustrates the King's perplexity 
at this time. Lord Morley told him on August 8, 191 1, 'that the King was 
much exercised in his mind by the criticism he had incurred by consenting 
to the creation of peers. He shrinks, it appears, from the language probably 
held in the Carlton Club, but, as Lord Morley told him, it was better to 
run the risk of that than to be denounced from every platform as the 
enemy of the people. His natural sensitiveness has been aggravated by the 
receipt of a large number of anonymous letters which he insists on reading 
for the "amusement" they afford; but it is an indulgence that rankles. The 
charge too of having betrayed the Irish "loyalists" touches him closely. , . . 
The King's extreme conscientiousness was, in Lord Morley's opinion, one 
source of his susceptibility, and lack of eatperience reflected itself in some 
hesitation and self-distrust. But a strong sense of obligation, coupled with 
a desire to shape his conduct according to the most correct standard of 
constitutional propriety, fortified resolution when it had been translated 
into action'. 





The King's desire for conciliation The growth of industrial disaffection 
Riots in South Wales Sidney Street The Railway Strike The 
Coal Strike The menace of syndicalism The reversal of the Taff 
Vale and Osborne judgements The National Insurance Act The 
King and the working classes The Protestant Declaration The 
beginning of the female suffrage movement Other indications of 
coming change The retirement of Mr A. J. Balfour from the leader- 
ship of the Unionist Party Mr Bonar Law The King proposes to 
visit India Lord Morley suggests difficulties The Cabinet give 
their grudging consent The question of the regalia The problem 
of the boons The King and Queen leave for India on November 1 i, 
1911 The entry into Delhi The Durbar The reception at Cal- 
cutta Effect of the visit The King returns to England on February 


THE PASSAGE of the Parliament Bill on that torrid night of August 10, 
1911, spared the King the necessity of exercising his Prerogative in 
circumstances which would have done damage to the dignity of 
the Crown. It did not mark the end of constitutional tension. There 
were those, as has been said, who contended that until the preamble 
of the Parliament Act had been brought into effect and a reformed 
Second Chamber established with newly defined powers, the laws 
and customs of the Constitution must be regarded as c in suspense*. 
It was asserted that during this transitional period the rights of veto 
until then possessed by the House of Lords devolved upon the King 
personally. This argument might well have been dismissed as 
academic; but it was used and exploited for partisan purposes in the 
Home Rule controversy which thereafter ensued. 

It must be repeated that during the first four years of his reign 
King George, while still inexperienced and untried, was confronted 
with internal and external problems which, in their significance, 
intensity and scope, were incomparably more intricate and alarming 
than any which had faced his immediate predecessors. The reign of 
Queen Victoria can be regarded as a period of ever-widening 
stability: the reign of King Edward VII as an interlude of lavish 


The King as conciliator 

prosperity and power; in the reign of King George, the foundations 
of stability were shaken, our power and prosperity diminished, and 
new forces were brought into operation which, within a quarter of a 
century, changed the structure of the world. 

King George was a man of peace: he hated strife even as he 
distrusted innovation. Determined as he was to safeguard his 
position of neutrality, unaffected as he remained by any extreme 
formulas either of the right or of the left, he followed the middle 
path of continuity and thus came to personify the ordinary British 
citizen's dislike of passionate doctrines and preference for com- 
promise and toleration. King George was not an imaginative man; 
he possessed no histrionic faculties and was utterly incapable of 
courting popularity by demagogic means. It was but gradually that 
his impartiality and common sense came to be recognised and 
appreciated' by the nation as a whole. Only those who were closest to 
him realised that he also possessed, and continuously exercised, a 
remarkable gift for conciliation. This was something more than a 
negative distaste for controversy and disunion; it was a positive 
and incessant activity which led him on every suitable occasion to 
deprecate provocation and to encourage concord. The pages of his 
diary, the letters and memoranda preserved in the Royal Archives, 
reveal the persistence, the vigilance, often the ingenuity, with which 
he pursued his aim of mitigating strife: unfalteringly and assiduously 
he strove to create good blood. 

This important aspect of his character and office was, in the last 
year of his reign, well summarised by Mr J. A. Spender, who was a 
most competent witness, having been in the closest touch with the 
politics and politicians of the age: a 

Tlunge into the record of any critical occasion, domestic or foreign 
and the King will be found wise, cool and self-effacing, with a re- 
markable faculty for rejecting bad advice and a keen eye for the points 
of unity and conciliation. Now and again in the German and Austrian 
documents we come across the confidential reports by Ambassadors 
of their talks with him, in which if anywhere he might be caught off 
his guard. The King has nothing to fear from these disclosures. They 
show him to be shrewd and observant, and more aware than some of 
his Ministers of the general drift of events/ 

During the opening years of King George's reign, Great Britain 
was riven by new and incalculable dissensions and Europe by old but 
equally incalculable animosities. It required great imperturbability 
of spirit to preach concord to so chaotic a world* 


Industrial disturbance 1911-1912 

The first half of King Edward's reign had been soothed by a 
welcome interlude of industrial peace: from 1906 onwards the waters 
of acquiescence began to seethe and hiss with discontent. In 1907 
Mr J. H. Thomas had welded the main body of railwaymen into one 
gigantic union and a serious strike was averted only by the creation 
of Conciliation Boards. In the autumn of 1910 strikes, accompanied 
by violence, broke out in the Rhondda and Aberdare valleys. Mr 
Winston Churchill, at that time President of the Board of Trade, was 
able to prevent bloodshed by sending strong reinforcements of 
Metropolitan Police into the area and by placing the military under 
the tactful command of Sir Nevil Macready. 6 On January 7, 1911, 
the citizens of London were startled to learn that a battle was in 
progress in Sidney Street between the Scots Guards and a group of 
anarchists who had barricaded themselves into a house and were 
firing from the windows upon the police and fire brigade. By that 
time Mr Churchill had become Home Secretary and was observed, 
clad in a large fur coat and a small top hat, peeping coyly round the 
corner of Sidney Street while the bullets whistled around. The King 
intimated that it was no part of the functions of a Cabinet Minister, 
however adventurous he might be, to take a personal share in a 
battle in the East End. In the spring of 1911 an unauthorised strike 
took place on the North Eastern Railway; in June the Sailors and 
Firemen's Union refused to work and in July the dockers struck and 
were joined by the carters and vanmen. The situation at one moment 
appeared so menacing that troops were moved from York to Man- 
chester. In all, during that summer of 191 1, there were as many as 
864 strikes and lock-outs, involving nearly a million workers, and 
resulting in the loss often and a quarter million working days. 

Of all these strikes the two most important were the railway 
strike of August 17-19, 1911, and the coal strike of February 26 to 
April n, 1912. The former, which was due to the refusal of Mr 
Thomas and his union to accept the decisions of the Conciliation 
Board, was not universally responded to and lasted only three days. 
Yet at the time it aroused much apprehension. The whole of the 
Aldershot garrison was transferred to London. Parliament was sum- 
moned and special constables were enrolled. The gun-makers of 
St James's Street and Pall Mall sold out their stock of revolvers 
within forty-eight hours. The King, who was at Bolton Abbey, 
telegraphed to Mr Churchill enquiring whether he was satisfied 
that order could be preserved. The difficulty is j , replied Mr 


The Coal Strike 

Churchill, c not to maintain order but to maintain order without 
loss of life/ Mr Lloyd George, although Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer, then intervened with all his personal magnetism and 
ingenuity. He persuaded Mr Thomas to call off the strike within 
three days. The King was profoundly relieved: 

'Very glad', he telegraphed to Mr Lloyd George on August 20, 'to 
hear that it was largely due to your energy and skill that a settlement 
with regard to this very serious strike has been brought about. I 
heartily congratulate you and feel that the whole country will be most 
grateful to you for averting a most disastrous calamity. It has caused 
me the greatest possible anxiety.' d 

Even more alarming was the great coal strike which broke out 
in the spring of 1912, lasted for five weeks and cost the country the 
loss of thirty million working days. The miners were demanding a 
minimum wage of 53. a day for men and 2s. a day for boys. The 
Prime Minister summoned a conference of owners and workers 
and, when these negotiations broke down on March 15, resorted to 
the unprecedented step of forcing acceptance by Act of Parliament. 
The Minimum Wages Bill was introduced on March 19 and re- 
ceived the Royal Assent on March 29. It was not generally realised 
at the time that this direct intervention of the State in an industrial 
dispute marked the first of many moves away from the traditional 
liberal doctrine oflaisstz-faire. 

It is not easy for the modern generation (accustomed as they are 
to organised Trade Unionism, to the machinery of mediation and 
arbitration in industrial disputes) to understand the perplexity and 
alarm with which the statesmen and citizens of the 1910-1914 period 
regarded these successive upheavals. They saw in them (and it would 
be an error to say that they were wholly mistaken) the presage of a 
rising of the proletariat and the injection into our political life of 
the dangerous Continental theory of syndicalism, with its battle cry 
of 'they who rule industrially will rule politically* and its firm belief 
in the efficacy of direct action. Mr Tom Mann, with his compelling 
personality, had won many adherents in our industrial centres to the 
theories which he had derived from his association with French 
syndicalists and the I.W.W. in the United States. Fortunately, our 
congenital trust in representative government, our long habituation 
to the electoral system, proved sufficiently healthy to withstand tliis 
foreign virus. The community's powers of resistance were fortified 
by governmental wisdom and forbearance. 

The statesmen of the time had the imagination to detect the 


Government action 

causes as well as the symptoms of this fever. They realised that, 
whereas the Franchise Acts of 1865 and 1884 had accorded political 
equality to the wage-earners, the younger generation were becoming 
impatient of the dragging steps with which social justice and 
economic security lagged behind. It should be remembered that, of 
the eight million regularly employed workers in 1911, as many as 
two and a half million were earning at full-time rates not more than 
155. to 255. a week. In 1911 63% of the railway workers were being 
paid less than one pound a week. Since 1900 the average weekly 
wage had not risen by more than twopence farthing, whereas the 
purchasing value of the pound had dropped to seventeen shillings 
and sixpence. The Government realised in time that if the doctrine 
of direct action were not to obtain a hold on the Labour movement, 
the workers must be afforded fuller opportunity to express their sense 
of frustrated power through legally recognised organisations; and 
that the economic insecurity which oppressed them must, by legisla- 
tive measures, be alleviated. 

Their first action, therefore, was to release the Trade Unions 
from the disabilities from which they had suffered as a result of the 
Taff Vale judgement and the Osborne case. 1 Their second step was 
to create within the Board of Trade a department of mediation in 
industrial disputes and to place that department in the able and 
conciliatory hands of Sir George Askwith. 2 Their third and most 

1 In 1900 a strike occurred in the Taff Vale Railway in South Wales. 
The Company claimed damages against the Amalgamated Society of 
Railway Servants who had intervened in the dispute. On appeal, the 
Company were accorded 23,000 damages with costs. Much indignation 
was expressed in Trade Union circles against this judgment. A Royal 
Commission was appointed to enquire into the law governing such issues, 
with the result that in 1906 the Government passed the Trades Disputes 
Act which protected Trade Unions against .similar actions in future. 

In 1908 Mr W. V. Osborne, a foreman porter at Clapham Junction 
and an ardent Liberal, won an action against the same Society of Railway 
Servants, restraining them from using any portion of their funds for the 
purpose of promoting the candidature of Labour members. The Trade 
Union Act of 1913 provided that Trade Unions could use their funds for 
political purposes but that these funds must be specially earmarked and 
their members could, if they so desired, Contract out 5 . 

It should be remembered also that, on August 20, 191 1, the Govern- 
ment passed a Bill providing that Members of Parliament should be paid 
a salary of 400 a year. This, to some extent, relieved Labour members 
from the irksome necessity of being dependent upon Trade Union funds. 

* Sir George Askwith was born in 1861, became Assistant Secretary to 
the Board of Trade in 1907, Comptroller General of their Labour Depart- 

The National Insurance Act 

important step was the National Insurance Act of igii. 1 This Act 
met with bitter opposition on the part of employers and the British 
Medical Association but under the wise administration of that 
supreme Civil Servant, Sir Robert Morant, 2 it became the corner 
stone of the great edifice of social security which has since been erected. 
In the end it was to justify the romantic boast of its originator: 

'I can see 9 , said Mr Lloyd George, 'the Old Age Pensions Act and the 
National Insurance Act, and many another Act in their trail, descend- 
ing like breezes from the hills of my native land, sweeping into the 
mist-laden valleys, and clearing the gloom away, until the rays of 
God's sun have pierced the narrowest window. 9 

By such measures did the Government dilute and thereby miti- 
gate the revolutionary spirit which, between 1910 and 1914, had 
created such alarm. The King took an intense personal interest in 
these disputes: his papers contain numerous notes and memoranda 
addressed to him by Mr Lloyd George or Sir George Askwith in 
reply to his repeated enquiries. He was sensitive to the personal 
suffering occasioned to working families by these incessant strikes and 
lock-outs; depressed by the animosity they engendered; and deeply 
perturbed by the gulf which seemed to be widening between the 
classes. He determined to do all within his power to bridge that gulf. 
In the years that followed he devoted time and energy to bringing 

ment in 191 1 and Chairman of the Fair Wages Advisory Committee. In 
1919 he was created a peer under the title of Lord Askwith of St. Ives. 
He died in 1942. 

1 Mr Lloyd George's Insurance Act of 191 1 fell into two parts, covering 
(i) Sickness, and (2) Unemployment. Section I affected 15 million 
workers and was based upon a contributory and compulsory basis. The 
employer contributed 3d a week, the State 2d and the male worker 46. and 
the female worker 3d. Sickness benefit was to be at the rate of los. a week 
for men and 7$. 6d. a week for women. Medical attendance and drugs were 
to be free, and the doctors were to be paid 43. per patient per annum, a 
figure which, under pressure from the B.M, A., was raised to gs. 6d. 

The unemployment section applied to certain trades only and covered 
only 2,250,000 workers. Unemployed persons were to receive a benefit 
of 73. a week with a maximum of fifteen weeks in any one year. Unemploy- 
ment insurance, as originally planned, was to be on*a strictly actuarial 
basis. This sound foundation could not for long be maintained. 

8 Sir Robert Morant was born in 1868 and devoted most of his life to 
educational work. He was responsible for Mr Balfour's Education Act of 
1 902 and was Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education from 1903 to 
191 1 and Chairman of the Insurance Commission from 1912 to 1919. He 
died in 1 920. 


The Protestant Declaration 1910 

the Crown into direct relations with the proletariat and, by constant 
visits to industrial centres, by personal relations with the workers 
themselves, to create and animate a sense of solidarity. No British 
Monarch before his time had manifested so constant, or so obviously 
sincere, a liking for his poorer subjects. The astonishing popular 
manifestation which marked his Jubilee in 1935 showed him that 
they, for their part, had understood. 


Typical of the King's avoidance of anything which might pro- 
voke unnecessary controversy or needlessly wound the suscepti- 
bilities of any section of his subjects, was the firm, and even obstinate, 
attitude which he adopted to what was known as The Protestant 
Declaration'. Under this survival from the panic created by the 
Popish Plot of 1678, the Sovereign was obliged, on the day of the 
first meeting of the first Parliament' to read out a declaration in 
which he asserted his own orthodoxy, condemned the doctrine of 
transubstantiation, and proclaimed from the throne -that 'the 
Invocation or Adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and 
the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of 
Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous*. 

Even before his accession, King George had objected to this 
formula, considering that it was calculated to cause deep offence to 
British Roman Catholics. He had long discussions on the subject 
with Canon Dalton and the Archbishop of Canterbury and when he 
ascended the throne he informed the Prime Minister that he would 
not consent to open Parliament unless a more tolerant formula were 
substituted for the outrageous declaration which, under the Bill of 
Rights, he was by law obliged to make. Mr Asquith was delighted by 
the King's refusal and immediately set about drafting a form of 
words which, he imagined, would meet with universal assent. The 
mere rumour that the old formula was to be altered provoked 
opposition in more extreme protestant quarters and pamphlets were 
circulated bearing such ominous and ancient titles as Tapal Des- 
potism' and 'Let the Protestant people reply'. Mr Asquith con- 
tinued, undeterred by any fear of popish infiltration, to draft his 
formula. On June 28, 1910, he submitted to the House of Commons 
a revised Declaration, under which the King should merely affirm 
that he was a faithful member of 'the Protestant Reformed Church 
by law established in England'. Both the nonconformists and the 

igio Symptoms of change 

Anglican bishops raised objections to this wording, and the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury then proposed the simpler phrase *I declare 
that I am a faithful Protestant and will uphold the Protestant suc- 
cession'.* This final formula, as passed by both Houses, received the 
Royal Assent on August 3, 1910. It was thus an innocuous Declara- 
tion which, when opening his first Parliament on February 6, 191 1, 
the King read from the throne. 

Apart from the incessant labour unrest, apart from the increasing 
anxiety occasioned by our relations with Germany and by the 
menace of German naval construction, apart from the acute per- 
plexities and dissensions aroused by the Parliament Bill, there were 
other indications that the old crust of habit was disintegrating and 
that new and perplexing movements or ideas were bubbling up from 
underneath. Now that the veto of the House of Lords had been 
abolished, it was evident that Mr Redmond and the Irish National- 
ists would oblige Mr Asquith to force a Home Rule Bill through both 
Houses of Parliament. Although in 191 1 it was not foreseen that this 
measure would bring the country to the brink of civil war, it was 
certainly realised that it would provoke a political controversy of 
extreme bitterness. Some of the advocates of female suffrage were 
already abandoning the legal methods which they had hitherto pur- 
sued and were planning direct action and those varied and ingenious 
forms of militancy which proved of such embarrassment in the three 
years that followed. These grave issues, and the endeavours made by 
the King to mitigate the acerbity and passion they engendered, will 
be described in later chapters. 

Even in the world of art and literature the old conventions were 
being questioned and new and perplexing heresies being substituted. 
Mr H. G. Wells and Mr Bernard Shaw were already exercising a 
disturbing influence on the younger generation and forming many 
restless minds. In November 1910, at the Grafton Galleries, was 
held an exhibition of post-impressionist art, including such un- 
settling, pictures as Van Gogh's Tostman' and Manet's 'Bar'. It 
was small comfort to those who were outraged by these innova- 
tions to reflect that in the same year the Royal Academy exhibited 
Mr Cope's portrait of Lord Clarendon and Mr Harold Speed's 
portrait of Miss Lilian Braithwaite. A year later the Russian ballet 
first descended upon London. On November 7, 1911, the King wit- 
nessed a performance of Les Sylphides at Covent Garden. 'Madame 
Pavlova and M. Nijinsky*, he wrote in his diary, c certainly dance 
beautifully.' The landmarks of the past were being obliterated 


Mr Balfour's retirement 

one by one: the future loomed uncertain, unfamiliar, imponderable, 


It was a misfortune for the King that at this juncture he should 
have been deprived of the counsels of an elder statesman whom he 
much esteemed. Mr A. J. Balfour had been saddened by the lack of 
prudence which, during the Parliament Bill crisis, had led so many 
of his followers to support the last-ditchers under Lord Halsbury. 
He left England for Bad Gastein in a mood of philosophic contempt. 
On his return in September 19 1 1, he found that a campaign had been 
organised against him under the slogan of e B.M.G.' or 'Balfour Must 
Go'. On October 7, the Halsbury Club was inaugurated by his 
critics within the Party, and at the same time he received from Mr 
Walter Long a letter intimating, in blustering terms, that the 
moment had come for him to relinquish the leadership of the 
Unionists. On November 7 he wrote a private letter to the King 
stating that he intended to announce his resignation within the next 
two days. It was the custom that the Home Secretary should, when 
Parliament is sitting, send a daily report to the King on the proceed- 
ings of the House of Commons. On Mr Winston Churchill's appoint- 
ment as First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911, his place at 
the Home Office had been taken by Mr Reginald McKenna. The 
latter's report to the King for November 9 is significant as coining 
from so confirmed a Liberal: 

'The news of Mr Balfour's retirement arrived early in the afternoon 
and was received with equal astonishment and regret. It is not too 
much to say that admiration for his courage and incomparable 
parliamentary abilities and personal affectionate regard for him are 
universal through the House. 9 

The King was not informed of, and would certainly not have 
admired or understood, the hurried stratagems by which thereafter 
both Mr Walter Long and Mr Austen Chamberlain were induced to 
withdraw their candidatures and themselves to propose the name of 
Mr Bonar Law 1 as Mr Balfour's successor. The proceedings which 

1 Andrew Bonar Law was born on September 16, 1858, in the manse 
of Kingston (later Rextoa), New Brunswick, which was not at that date 
part of the Dominion of Canada. His father, a Presbyterian Minister, had 
been born near Portrush in Co. Antrim, 'Northern Ireland. At the age of 
twelve he was sent to live with his mother's family in Glasgow and at the 
age of sixteen entered his uncle's office; he remained a junior clerk for 
twelve years but at the age of twenty-eight became a partner in the firm 
of William Jacks, iron merchants. In December 1900, at the age of forty- 


Mr Bonar Law 

took place at the Garlton Club on November 13, 1911, remain, in 
spite of all that has been written about them, essentially obscure. The 
King was puzzled by the fact that this almost unknown iron merchant 
from Glasgow should have unanimously been acclaimed as the 
leader of the Conservative Party. He was at that date unacquainted 
with Mr Bonar Law's melancholy, austere and combative nature, 
or with the slow precisions of his mind: 

6 He is*, Lord Derby wrote to the King on November x6/ 'a curious 
mixture. Never very gay, he has become even less so since the death 
of his wife, to whom he was devoted. But still he has a great sense of 
humour a first-class debater and a good, though not a rousing, 
platform speaker a great master of figures, which he can use to great 
advantage. He has all the qualities of a great leader except one and 
that is he has no personal magnetism and can inspire no man to real 
enthusiasm. 5 

Lord Derby added the opinion that when the time came to fight 
the Home Rule Bill the Unionist Party would regret having dispensed 
with the leadership of Mr A. J. Balfour. 'And I hope*, he added, 
'that they will be ashamed of themselves/ 

By the time he received this letter, the King was already on his 
way to Delhi. 


Ever since his visit to India in the winter of 1905-1906 King 
George had remained under the spell of that multitudinous country 
and had followed with intense personal interest the agitations, 
movements and reforms of the intervening five years. He was well 
aware that the defeat of a European by an Asiatic Power in the 
Russo-Japanese war had given a new impetus to Indian nationalism 
and that even moderate leaders, such as Gopal Ghokale, were being 
forced by their younger followers to adopt a more intransigeant 
attitude. The Morley-Minto reforms of 1909, under which repre- 

two, he entered the House of Commons as Conservative member, first for 
Gorbals, and eventually for the Boode division of Lancashire. In May 
1915, he joined the Coalition Government as Minister for the Colonies. 
On December 7, 1916, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Mr 
Lloyd George's Government. After the coupon election of November 1918, 
he became Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Commons. On 
October 23, 1922, he succeeded Lloyd George as Prime Minister, an 
office which he held for only 209 days. He resigned for reasons of health 
on May 20, 1923, and died on October 30 of that year. 

The Kings interest in India 1910 

sentative institutions were introduced upon a small and somewhat 
artificial scale, and as a result of which S. P. Sinha became a member 
of the Viceroy's Council, were intended to bring educated Indian 
opinion into closer touch with the administration; they were not 
intended, as Lord Morley assured him, to lead directly or indirectly 
to parliamentary government in India. Their aim was to enhance 
the self-respect of the Indians rather than to increase the power of the 
nationalists. King George remained under the impression which he 
had derived from his first visit, and in which he was confirmed by the 
views of so experienced an administrator as Sir Walter Lawrence, 1 
that it was unfortunate that the ruling chiefs were not accorded a 
more representative share in the Government. He felt that the Indian 
rulers were being gradually ousted by the politicians and the legisla- 
tive councils, and that Lord Lytton's original conception of a 
Council of Princes (a conception by which Lord Curzon had himself 
at one moment been attracted) would do much to counterbalance 
the influence of the nationalists. Much as he admired the impartial 
efficiency of our bureaucratic system, he felt that the personal and 
paternal methods adopted in the Native States were often more 
closely in accord with the feelings and traditions of the people them- 
selves. He believed that his own presence in India as King-Emperor 
would do much to revive and consolidate the loyalty of the Indian 
masses. From the first moment of his accession he decided that, after 
his coronation in London, he would travel to India and crown him- 
self as Emperor at Delhi. He foresaw that so unprecedented a 
suggestion would not immediately commend itself to his Ministers. 
But for all his self-effacement and modesty, there was in him a strain 
of obstinacy, which the Cabinet had already come to recognise and 

When, in the early autumn of 1910, the Prime Minister came on 
a visit to Balmoral, the King broached this proposition in a tentative 
form. Mr Asquith was somewhat taken aback by the novelty of the 
suggestion and intimated that it would be fitting, before any decisions 
were come to or any announcements made, that the opinion of the 
Secretary of State for India should be obtained in writing. On 

1 Sir Walter Lawrence was born in 1857, educated at Cheltenham and 
Balliol, and passed first into the Indian Civil Service in 1877. He was 
Private Secretary to Lord Curzon as Viceroy between 1898 and 1903 and 
accompanied King George on his first visit to India in 1905. He died in 
1940. His book The India We Served is a monument to his culture and 
1 66 

igio The project of a Durbar 

September 8, 1910, therefore, the King wrote to Lord Morley the 
following letter:* 

'When the Prime Minister was here last week, I spoke to him on a 
subject which has for some time been on my mind, and, having done 
so, I am anxious that you also, as Secretary of State for India (and it is 
only right that you should be the first after him to be informed by 
myself of what I mentioned to Mr Asquith) should know. 

'Ever since I visited India five years ago I have been impressed by 
the great advantage which would result from a visit by the Sovereign 
to that great Empire. The events which have unfortunately occurred 
since 1906 have only strengthened that opinion. I am convinced that 
were it possible for me, accompanied by the Queen, to go to India 
and hold a Coronation Durbar at Delhi, where we should meet all the 
Princes, officials and vast numbers of the People, the greatest benefits 
would accrue to the Country at large. I also trust and I believe, that 
if the proposed visit could be made known some time before, it would 
tend to allay unrest and, I am sorry to say, seditious spirit, which 
unfortunately exist in some parts of India. 

*Of course I am aware that this proposal of mine is an entirely new 
departure, but knowing your broad and liberal views and great ex- 
perience, I feel sure that you will appreciate the wisdom of such a step 
and recognize the necessity of creating new precedents when circum- 
stances justify them. 

*I fed confident that my Ministers, after giving the question careful 
consideration, will appreciate my motives, which are actuated by a 
deep sense of duty and my sympathetic interest in the peoples of India, 
and will approve of an undertaking, the fulfilment of which I have so 
much at heart.' 

Lord Morley, on September 12, replied to this letter in terms 
which were agile, tactful and not discouraging:* 

'Viscount Morley, with the tender of his humble duty, begs leave to 
thank Your Majesty for writing to him so fully on a subject of such 
supreme importance. Your Majesty does no more than justice to Lord 
Morley in believing that he would not be afraid of making a new 
precedent in the present difficult circumstances in India. That such a 
step as Your Majesty proposes would be well calculated to strike the 
imagination of people in India, and to give fresh life to English interest 
and feeling about Indian subjects, is quite certain, and could not in 
itself be other than extraordinarily advantageous. Some difficulties, 
however, as was to be expected in a case of this novelty, present them- 

'The cost of such a proceeding, with all the grandeur of it, would 
be great, and would presumably have to be borne by India. Apart from 
the general body of Indian tax-payers, the Princes and ruling chiefs 
would no doubt be eager to demonstrate their loyalty on the scale of 


Preliminary arrangements 1910 

splendour natural for such an occasion, and this splendour would be 
very costly, as the last Durbar only too abundantly proved. Again 
stress may be laid on embarrassments that might arise to public 
business at home, from the absence of the Sovereign from home for so 
long a time and at such immense distance. Points of this kind are 
sure to be present to Your Majesty, as may be also the best answers to 

* Your Majesty is assuredly right in assuming that, in considering the 
question, Ministers will recognize and warmly appreciate the strong 
sense of Imperial duty, and the sympathetic, almost passionate, interest 
taken in the people of India that inspire the present proposal in Your 
Majesty's mind. Nobody has better reason to know, and to be grateful 
for, this commanding interest than Lord Morley. If he remains Indian 
Secretary he will count it a high honour indeed to take part in such 
discussion as, upon returning to London, Your Majesty intends.' 

The proposal was submitted to the Cabinet two months later, 
and on November 8, 1910, Mr Asquith's Private Secretary informed 
Lord Knollys of their somewhat hesitant approval: 

'The King's visit to India was agreed to by the Cabinet this afternoon, 
though not without a certain amount of criticism, and with a strong 
expression of opinion that the decision was not to be taken as preclud- 
ing the discussion at a later stage of how the expenses were to be 
borne. 9 

The visit having been approved in principle, a long correspond- 
ence then ensued between the Viceroy and the Palace in regard to 
the detailed arrangements. Lord Hardinge, who warmly welcomed 
the proposal, appointed a Durbar Committee under the chairman- 
ship of Sir John Hewett, who was assisted by an active secretary, 
Mr E. V. Gabriel. From the outset the King laid it down that 'all 
classes should have a chance of seeing him close at hand'. This 
decision caused distress to those who were responsible for security 
measures and there were many who felt that, in thus exposing him- 
self to the terrorists, the King would be taking risks. He refused to be 
influenced by their arguments. 

Two serious problems then arose. The King's original idea had 
been that he should c crown himself at Delhi'. The officials pointed 
out that this would create an awkward precedent in that it would 
oblige all his successors to undergo a similar installation. The 
Archbishop of Canterbury objected that such an action would 
amount to a second Coronation, that a religious service of Consecra- 
tion would be indispensable, and that this would be unfitting for a 
ceremony attended by so many Moslems and Hindus. It was therefore 
1 68 

The problem of boons 

decided that the King should appear wearing his crown and receive 
the homage of the Princes and rulers seated upon his throne. A 
further difficulty then arose. It was discovered that no man was 
entitled in law to remove the crown from out of the kingdom; an 
entirely new crown had therefore to be manufactured. At one time 
it was suggested that this Imperial crown should after the Durbar 
be preserved in the fort at Delhi. It was then objected that this again 
would establish a precedent which might prove inconvenient to 
King George's successors and even that the existence, in the very 
centre of India, of this august emblem of Imperial sovereignty might 
prove an irresistible temptation to potential usurpers. In the end it 
was decided that the Imperial crown should, after the Durbar, be 
brought back to England and housed, with the other regalia, in the 
Tower of London. 

The second problem was more serious. It was the problem of 
boons. It was foreseen that Indian opinion would interpret the visit 
of the King-Emperor as an almost miraculous event; and that the 
boons which, according to immemorial custom, would have to be 
accorded, must in their magnitude be proportionate to the occasion. 
The Viceroy had at first suggested that, apart from the usual 
remission of taxes and penal sentences, the British Government 
should make a gift to India of a crore of rupees (666,666) to be 
devoted to technical education. This proposal was firmly rejected 
by the Cabinet. The Viceroy then proposed as an alternative that 
two separate major boons should be proclaimed at the Durbar. The 
first was the reversal of Lord Curzon's 'unintentional but grievous 
mistake* in partitioning Bengal. The second was the transference 
of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The Cabinet, when they came 
to consider these proposals a accepted them with some reluctance. 
On the one hand they doubted whether such boons would in fact 
arouse the enthusiasm which it was desired to create: on the other 
hand they were not at all certain that it was wise to identify the 
King-Emperor personally with changes of so important a nature 
which were bound to lead to much controversy in India. 

These sad prognostications were not in every respect confirmed. 
But the criticisms which had been raised, the doubts and hesitations 
which had been expressed, did not encourage the officials who 
accompanied the King to India to view the prospect with any ex- 
uberant optimism. The success of the Durbar took them by surprise. 

At a Privy Council held on November 10, 1911, a Council of 

State (consisting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chan- 

F 2 169 

The Durbar ceremony 

cellor, the Lord President of the Council, and Prince Arthur of 
Connaught) was set up to act in the King's name in all matters 
'affecting the safety and good Government of Our Realm*. The 
Council of State were not however empowered to dissolve Parlia- 
ment or to grant 'any rank, title or dignity of the peerage 9 , or to 
c act in any manner of things on which it is signified to Us, or appears 
to them, that Our special approval should be previously obtained 5 . 


The King and Queen left England on November 11, 1911, and 
landed at the Apollo Bandar, Bombay, on December 2. 1 Five days 
later they made their state entry into Delhi. c There were large 
crowds all the way/ the King noted that evening, 'but they were not 
particularly demonstrative.' Mr John Fortescue* attributes the chill 
of this reception to the fact that the people had expected the King 
to enter on an elephant and did not recognise him as he rode past in 
Field-Marshal's uniform, flanked by the Governor-General and the 
Secretary of State for India. The procession passed onwards to the 
King-Emperor's camp, which had been laid out with great elabora- 
tion and consisted of 40,000 tents giving shelter to some 300,000 

The Durbar itself took place on Tuesday, December 12, in an 
enormous amphitheatre, on the southern rim of which had been 
erected a tented canopy, or Shamiana, and in the exact centre of 
which stood a slim pavilion, raised upon a double platform, and sur- 
mounted by a bulbous golden dome. The King and Qjieen, wearing 
their crowns, drove from their camp to the Durbar amphitheatre, 
escorted by the Tenth Hussars and the Imperial Cadet Corps: their 
arrival was heralded by a salute of one hundred and one guns. 

1 The King and Queen travelled to India in the Medina, the latest 
addition to the P. & O. fleet and a fine vessel of 13,000 tons. They were 
accompanied by Lord Crewe, who had succeeded Lord Morley at the 
India Office, Lord Stamfordham, Sir Edward Henry, chief of the Metro- 
politan police, Sir James Dunlop Smith as political officer, Lord and Lady 
Shaftesbury, the Duke of Teck, Lord Durham, Lord Annaly, Sir Derek 
Keppel, Captain Godfrey Faussett, Sir Charles Gust, Lord Charles Fitz- 
maurice, Major Clive Wigram and Sir Havelock Charles. Mr John Fortes- 
cue was attached as historian of the visit and Mr Jacomb Hood was 
appointed the official artist. The Medina was escorted by four cruisers and 
the whole flotilla was under the command of Admiral Sir Colin Keppel, 
with Captain Chatfield as his flag captain. The Medina carried 32 officers 
and 360 petty officers and ratings, plus 210 Royal Marines. There were in 
all 733 people on board. 


(Lord Hardinge, the King, Lord Crewe) 

The new Capital 

Descending in front of the Shamiana, the King and Queen, preceded 
by Indian attendants carrying peacock fans, yak-tails and golden 
maces, and flanked by heralds, Gentlemen-at-Arms, Scottish 
Archers 1 and officers of State, took their places under the canopy. 
They wore their coronation robes and their heavy purple trains were 
carried by ten Indian pages chosen from the families of the Princes 
and the ruling chiefs. The King read a short speech of welcome and 
the ceremony of homage then began. Led by the Governor-General, 
the long and glittering file of Rajahs passed before the King-Emperor 
and did obeisance. One of their number, the Gaekwar of Baroda, 
advanced towards the dais swinging a walking stick in his hand. 
'One chief, wrote Mr John Fortescue with excellent restraint, 
c marred the proceedings for a moment by a laboured ungainliness 
of bearing which lent itself to misrepresentation.'* This ceremony of 
homage lasted for a whole hour and when it was finished the guns 
fired a salute, the trumpets rang out, and the King and Queen 
descended from the canopied dais and walked slowly across 
to the pavilion. The two thrones had been set upon a platform 
reached by a series of steps; thus elevated above the troops and 
dignitaries who thronged the arena, the King and Queen were visible 
even to the most distant observer upon the Spectators* Mound. 
The Governor-General then advanced and read aloud a list of minor 
boons, such as increased expenditure on education, a grant of extra 
pay to all soldiers and civil servants and the release of certain 
criminals and debtors. When Lord Hardinge had finished, the King, 
to the surprise of all, himself rose and in a clear voice proclaimed 
the two major boons, the revision of the partition of Bengal and the 
transference of the capital to Delhi. The Durbar was then closed and 
the King and Queen departed. When they had left, the crowd 
rushed across to the pavilion and prostrated themselves, pressing 
their foreheads against the marble steps. 

On the following day a national festival was held on the plain 
between the eastern wall of the fort of Delhi and the river Jumna. 
The King and Queen again put on their robes and crowns and 
showed themselves from Shah Jehan's balcony to a crowd of some 
half million people. On December 15 the King laid the foundation 

1 This was the first time that the Royal Company of Archers had served 
as a Scottish Bodyguard out of Scotland. They were represented in India 
by Lord Mar and Kellie, the Hon. Norman Macleod and the Hon. William 
Graham. For this exotic occasion they wore with their court uniforms 
white solar helmets adorned by a green plume. 


Farewell to India 
stones of the new capital 1 and on the next day he departed on a most 
successful shooting expedition to Nepal. The Queen did not accom- 
pany him, preferring an arduous round of sightseeing in Rajputana. 
Some doubts had been expressed as to whether it would be pru- 
dent for the King, before leaving India, to pay a visit to Calcutta, 
which was regarded as a hot-bed of sedition. He insisted on adhering 
to the original programme, and the reception accorded to him fully 
justified his decision. He was greeted enthusiastically by the people 
of Calcutta: 'it was a forest of waving arms.' 

"The King', wrote Mr Stanley Reed, editor of the Times of India, to 
Lord Northcliffe, 'has been wiser than all of us. We were all filled with 
doubts. The depressing chilliness of the state entry into Delhi seemed 
to confirm them. But from that point there was no interruption in the 
crescendo wave of popular enthusiasm. It reached an unparalleled 
pitch in Calcutta and has left a deep and ineffaceable impression 
behind it.* Mr Reed was too experienced a man to suppose that this 
impression would check the flow of Indian nationalism; in fact he 
believed that it would enforce those aspirations. 'But*, he added with 
rare prescience, 'Indians will now work for the realisation of those 
aspirations within the Empire. 5 * 

On January 10 the King and Qjieen bade farewell to India: 

'It is', he said in his final speech, 'a matter of intense satisfaction to me 
to realize how all classes and creeds have joined together in true- 
hearted welcome. Is it not possible that the same unity and concord 
may for the future govern the daily relations of their public and private 
lives? ... To you, the representatives of Bombay I deliver this our 
loving message of farewell to the Indian Empire. . . .' (At this point 
the King paused for a few seconds in obvious emotion) . . . 'May the 
Almighty ever assist me and my successors to promote its welfare and 
to secure to it the blessing of prosperity and peace.' l 

'I know 5 , he wrote to Queen Alexandra while on his return 
journey, 'that many people in England, for various reasons, were 
against our going to India, but I am sure that if they could have 
been present with us & seen all we saw, they would have changed 
their minds & said they were wrong. From first to last during the 

1 These foundation stones caused future trouble. The King in laying 
them had referred to them as 'the first stones of the Imperial capital which 
will arise from where we now stand*. It was later decided that the site first 
chosen for the new Delhi was unsuitable and another site was selected. The 
stones were then, with the King's consent, moved to a different locality. 
In the House of Commons on June 10, 1912, Lord Ronaldshay repeated 
the malicious rumour that 'in the hurry of the moment an old tombstone 
was made use of for a foundation stone'. This was untrue. The stones had 
been carefully chosen from a mason's yard in the Chandni Chauk at Delhi. 

Return home 

five weeks we spent in that wonderful country everything we did 
was a splendid success: even my most sanguine expectations were 
surpassed. May & I were indeed deeply touched at the genuine love 
& affection shown us by the millions of people who saw us at the 
different places we went to. At Calcutta, where we spent ten days, 
the people became more & more enthusiastic each day & were quite 
as demonstrative as they are in England, which is most unusual in 
the Indian people. I actually broke down in reading my farewell 
speech in Bombay; I simply couldn't help it.* c What joy*, he wrote 
later from Malta, c that there are only 9 more days before we meet! 
I shall then feel proud that our historical visit to India has been 
accomplished, successfully I hope, & that I have done my duty 
before God & this great Empire & last, but not least, that I have 
gained the approval of my beloved Motherdear.' 

The King and Queen landed at Portsmouth on February 5, 1912. * 
They found England threatened by a coal strike and hushed under 





The year igii also important as marking a new phase in the relations 
between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente King George's 
approach to foreign affairs His contact with the Foreign Office and 
the Ambassadors in London The Revolution in Portugal The 
expansion of the German Navy Admiral von Tirpitz King George 
and the German Emperor The latter comes to London for the un- 
veiling of the Queen Victoria Memorial He raises the Morocco 
question Conflicting versions of the conversation which then took 
place The Franco-German negotiations The French expedition to 
Fez The despatch of the Panther to Agadir Sir Edward Grey's 
warning The Germans maintain an ominous silence for seventeen 
days Mr Lloyd George's speech at the Mansion House The danger 
of war The Cambon-Kiderlen negotiations satisfactorily concluded 
on November 4 Effect in Germany of this diplomatic defeat The 
Agadir crisis as a prelude to the 1914 war. 

AT midnight on December 31, while still at Government House, 

Calcutta, King George said farewell to the old year. 'Goodbye!' he 
wrote in his diary. Dear old 1911! The most eventful year of mv 
life! 5 y 

It had been the year of his Coronation: the year in which the 
Parliament Bill had faced him with a galling conflict of duties: a 
year of threats and portents: a year of social and industrial commo- 
tion: a year in which the thunder of Irish strife already grumbled in 
the west; while in the east, the German enigma assumed once more 
its fearful sphinx-like shape. At home, the old order was disintegrat- 
ing and no man could foretell the pattern of the new. Abroad, the 
Concert of Europe, which had averted a major catastrophe for more 
than a hundred years, was being replaced by an uncertain balance 
of power and the great nations definitely ranged themselves un- 
willingly, apprehensively, suspiciously into two armed coalitions. 

In the last three chapters an account has been given of the 
national problems with which, during this period, King George was 
confronted. It is now necessary, before passing on to 1912, to con- 
sider the^ international tension which, in that same year 1911, cul- 
minated in the first of many grave conjunctures. 

/pi/ The King and Foreign Affairs 

It has already been remarked that King George, until his 
accession, had taken little interest in, and acquired but a superficial 
knowledge of, the intricate network of our foreign relations. He did 
not share his father's taste for the patterns of diplomacy and pos- 
sessed in such matters an almost open mind. The Austrian Ambassa- 
dor, Count Mensdorff, 1 reported to his Government in May 1910 
that the new King had no special affection for, or prejudice against, 
any foreign country, although his personal sympathies appeared to 
incline to the side of his mother's relations rather than to that of his 
father's. Count Mensdorff was tempted to attribute exaggerated 
importance to dynastic affiliations. It was true that King George 
was much attached to the Danish Royal Family, that he had a warm 
affection for his cousin, the Tsar of Russia, and that throughout his 
life he was constantly concerned with the fortunes of successive Kings 
of Greece. But his relations with the German Emperor were equally 
correct, even amicable, and displayed a shrewder understanding of 
that Monarch's nervous and impulsive temperament than any 
sympathy that King Edward had been able to acquire. In any case, 
King George would never have allowed his family inclinations or 
aversions to colour the conduct which his position as a Constitutional 
Sovereign prescribed. 2 

With his usual diligence, and with the advantage of a most 
retentive memory, he would study the telegram sections and the 
printed despatches which reached him every morning from the 
Foreign Office. He was in constant communication with Sir Edward 
Grey, and, when in London, would grant repeated audiences to the 
Permanent Under Secretary. The British Ambassadors and Ministers 
accredited to foreign countries would, by almost every bag, write 
private letters to Lord Stamfordham explaining, or enlarging upon, 

1 Count Albert Victor von MensdorfF-Pouilly-Dietrichstein was 
Austrian Ambassador in London from 1904 to 1914. He was distantly 
related to the Royal Family, since his grandmother, Princess Sophia of 
Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, had been Queen Victoria's aunt. He was thus 
first cousin, once removed, to both Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. 

* King George, on his accession, was related to many of the ruling 
families of Europe. On his mother's side, he was the nephew of King 
Frederick VIII of Denmark (1843-1912), the nephew of King George of 
the Hellenes (1845-1913), the first cousin and brother-in-law of Kong 
Haakon VII of Norway (1872- ) and the first cousin of Nicholas II, 
Tsar of Russia (1868-1918). On his father's side he was the first cousin of 
William II, German Emperor (1859-1941) and a first cousin by marriage 
of Alfonso XIII, King of Spain (1886-1941). 


The Ambassadors in London ign 

the official reports which they sent home. The King rapidly acquired 
a detailed familiarity with the international problems confronting 
his Government, and, thus equipped, was able to exercise in his 
intercourse with foreign representatives that discretion which only 
expert knowledge can provide. 

In those distant days, there were only nine ambassadors ac- 
credited to the Court of St James's. All of them were men of peace; 
some of them were men of outstanding ability. 1 During the prolonged 
crisis created by the two Balkan Wars (which lasted from the autumn 
of 1912 to the spring of 1914) these great Ambassadors, under the 
modest but inspired leadership of Sir Edward Grey, succeeded, for a 
while, in reconstituting what was in fact a Concert of Europe. They 
represented all that was most wise, honourable and pacific in the Old 
Diplomacy; they formed a distinguished group. 

King George was on intimate terms with each of them. They 
would spend repeated week-ends at Windsor and from time to time 
one or other of their number would stay for a week at Balmoral. The 
despatches in which they informed their Governments of the King's 

1 Monsieur Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador, had been appointed 
to London in 1898, at a time when French feeling was still smarting under 
the humiliations of Fashoda. His patient persistence, his acquired under- 
standing of our national character, his perception that no British Govern- 
ment could be harried into foreign commitments, the influence which he 
continued to exercise on successive French Cabinets, rendered him both 
the architect and the custodian of the Entente. 

Count Paul Wolff-Metternich, the German Ambassador, was indolent, 
well-intentioned and wise. The excellent advice which he furnished to his 
Government was negatived by the insidious reports simultaneously sent 
to them by the Military and Naval Attach& in London and by the 
Counsellor, Baron von Kuhlmann. Count Metternich was recalled in 
1912 on the unfair grounds that he had not warned his Government of the 
line which Great Britain would take in the Agadir crisis. He was suc- 
ceeded by the formidable Marschall von Bieberstein, who died within 
five months and was himself succeeded by Prince Lichnowsky. 

Count Benckendorff, the Russian Ambassador, was a loyal champion 
of Anglo-Russian co-operation, but his influence in St. Petersburg suffered 
from the fact that he was suspected in nationalist circles of possessing but 
a faint Pan-Slav heart. 

Marquis Merry del Val, the Spanish Ambassador, was a competent 
diplomatist, hampered by a deficient sense of proportion. Count Mens- 
dorff, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, was much esteemed in English 
society and exerted throughout a calming influence upon the hotheads at 
Vienna* The Italian Ambassador, Marchese Imperial!, was on the whole 
an equable man. The United States, Japanese and Turkish Ambassadors 
played subsidiary roles. 

The Portuguese Revolution 

opinions and attitude have now been published. They reveal that 
the King was in the closest harmony with the policy of his Govern- 
ment; that he possessed a surprising knowledge of the details of the 
questions at issue; and that his attitude throughout was conciliatory, 
outspoken, robust and sensible. His reputation, unlike that of many 
other European statesmen of the time, was enhanced by these 


King George's first experience of the necessity of subordinating 
personal affections to the requirements of State policy occurred when 
a revolution broke out in Portugal in the autumn of 1910. On the 
night of October 4 the young King Manuel was entertaining the 
President of Brazil at the castle of Belem. News was brought to him 
that certain regiments in the capital had mutinied, had murdered 
their officers, and were advancing towards the centre of the city. 
Instead of joining his mother, Queen Amflie, at Cintra, King 
Manuel, with commendable courage, drove direct to Lisbon and 
established himself in the Necessidades Palace. By midnight the 
Republican forces had secured complete control of Lisbon and the 
warships in the Tagus started to bombard the palace. King Manuel 
was persuaded to escape by the garden gate and drove to Mafra, 
where he was rejoined by his mother, Queen Am&ie, and his grand- 
mother, Queen Maria Pia. On October 6, by which date it was 
evident that the revolution had triumphed, the Portuguese Royal 
Family embarked on their yacht at Ereceire and sailed for Gibraltar. 
From there the yacht was sent back to Oporto. King Manuel and 
his family accepted the proffered hospitality of Sir Archibald Hun- 
ter, the Governor of Gibraltar; they possessed nothing but the clothes 
in which they stood; King Manuel was obliged to borrow the dinner 
jacket of His Excellency's aide-de-camp, Captain Darby. Meanwhile, 
in London, the Marquis de Soveral, who remained until his death 
the devoted servitor of his Royal master, suggested to King George 
that a British warship should be sent to Gibraltar to transport the 
Portuguese Royal Family to England. Sir Edward Grey felt that 
such a gesture was excessive. King George, not wishing to leave in 
the lurch an unfortunate family, with whom he and his father had 
for so many years been on terms of cordial friendship, insisted upon 
sending the Royal yacht, the Victoria and Albert. Sir Edward Grey, 
with some misgivings, agreed to this suggestion. The Foreign 
Secretary was anxious, none the less, to forestall any criticism which 


The German Navy 
such action might arouse by immediately according official recogni- 
tion to the Republican Government at Lisbon. King George was 
unwilling that Great Britain should thus be the first of the Great 
Powers to accept and thereby fortify the revolution. Sir Edward 
Grey insisted, and the King, with his accustomed good sense, with r 
drew his objections. Thus King Manuel and his mother were trans- 
ferred from Gibraltar to Southampton in the Royal yacht and 
proceeded to Woodnorton. For many months, for many years, 
thereafter King George, through the British Minister at Lisbon, 
sought to persuade the Portuguese Government to restore their 
personal belongings to King Manuel and Queen Am61ie. In the 
end his intervention was not unsuccessful; nor were our relations 
with our oldest ally in any way troubled by the episode. 

The essential factor in our foreign policy during this pre-war 
period was the rapid and alarming increase in the power of the 
German Navy. While it determined our own naval construction and 
dispositions, it also obliged us to abandon for ever the system of 
splendid isolation, to conclude and renew our alliance with Japan, 
and to enter into ever closer co-operation with France and Russia. 
To the naval problem, even when he was Prince of Wales, King 
George had given expert attention. Although he was bombarded 
with pleas and counter-pleas from his former commanders and 
colleagues in the Navy, he managed to maintain an attitude of 
neutrality. He deeply regretted, and remained aloof from, the inter- 
necine quarrel which arose between Admiral Lord Charles Beresford 
and Sir John Fisher. He strove to approach the problem, with all the 
technical controversies which it aroused, in an impartial spirit. 

The German Navy, in 1870, had consisted of only four armoured 
ships, which had played but an inconspicuous part in the Franco- 
Prussian war. Even in 1888, when William II became Emperor, the 
German Navy was manned by no more than seventeen thousand men 
and cost the Exchequer less than two and a half million pounds a 
year. The young Emperor was convinced that, if Germany were 
really to become a World Power, c the trident must be in our hands'. 
*When I began my reign/ he wrote in after years, 6 'I at once 
energetically took in hand the development and reform in fact, one 
may say the foundation anew of the Imperial German Navy. 9 The 
Reichstag did not share these ambitions and refused to grant the 
necessary credits. 'Twelve precious years/ the Emperor wrote,* 
'never to be retrieved, were lost by the failure of the Reichstag.' In 
1897 Admiral von Tirpitz succeeded Admiral Hollman; the German 

igoo The igoo Navy Bill 

Flottenverein, or Navy League, was created as an instrument of 
propaganda. In the following April, Admiral von Tirpitz persuaded 
the Reichstag to pass a Navy Bill which, while it provided Germany 
with a powerful fleet of battleships and cruisers, was not excessive. 
The outbreak of the South African War and the arrest by British 
cruisers of two German merchantmen, created a new atmosphere 
and a new opportunity. Admiral von Tirpitz informed the Em- 
peror that what was needed was a battle-fleet 'which can be 
stationed between Heligoland and the Thames'. The Reichstag in 
1900 were therefore induced to consent to a further Bill providing 
for such a battle-fleet, the whole programme to be completed within 
seventeen years. 1 Admiral von Tirpitz professed to fear that, pending 
this completion, Germany must pass through c a danger zone', since 
there was a risk of England 'trying to force a preventive war' in order 
'to nip our fleet in the bud'. d This apprehension was not rendered 
less fantastic by the fact that Sir John Fisher, in one of his moments 
of ebullience, did actually suggest to King Edward that it might be 
a good thing to 'Copenhagen 9 the growing German fleet before it 
became too strong. 'Fisher', King Edward replied, 'you must be 

Admiral von Tirpitz may have possessed outstanding naval 
genius; but he was also, to quote Mr Winston Churchill, 'a sincere, 
wrong-headed, purblind old Prussian.' 'It is almost pathetic', adds 
Mr Churchill, 'to read the foolish sentences in which, on page after 
page of his memoirs/ the Admiral asserts that Anglo-German rela- 
tions would be improved by naval rivalry/ The Emperor, for his 
part, contended that a large German fleet would 'bring the British 
to their senses by sheer fright'. The Germans had every right, if they 
so desired, to challenge our command of the seas. The mistakes they 
made were, firstly to under-estimate the effect which such a menace 
would produce in this country and overseas: secondly, to ignore the 
possibility that world opinion might consider it inordinate ambition 
on the part of a country, already possessing the strongest .army in 
the world, to compete also for naval supremacy: and thirdly, not to 
foresee that to antagonise Great Britain and Russia simultaneously 
(the first on the high seas, the second in the Near and Middle East) 

1 The 1 900 Navy Bill provided for: 

. A Battle Fleet, consisting of: 2 first flagships, 32 battleships, 8 large 

cruisers, 24 small cruisers. 

A Foreign Fleet 9 consisting of: 3 large cruisers and i o small cruisers. 
In reserve, 4 battleships, 3 large cruisers and 4 small cruisers. 


The first Dreadnought 1906 

would end by drawing these two Powers together and thereby 
creating the very encirclement which they so dreaded. 

Our endeavours to secure some mitigation of this ascending scale 
of naval construction met with small response. The German Em- 
peror dismissed as 'groundless impertinence* * the tentative sug- 
gestions that we made from time to time for some general dis- 
armament agreement: when Sir Charles Hardinge raised the matter 
at Kronberg in August 1908, he was severely snubbed. There were 
some Germans, however, who realised that Great Britain would 
never, however economical or pacific her Government might be, 
allow her maritime security to be seriously imperilled. Herr von 
Bethmann-Hollweg, who succeeded Prince Bttlow as Chancellor in 
1909, was fully conscious that this insane competition could only 
bring Germany to the abyss; he was unable to exorcise the spell 
which von Tirpitz had cast upon the Emperor and the German 
public. Baron von Kiihlmann also was well aware that the propa- 
ganda of the Flottenverein had in the course of years created in the 
German mind a feeling of excited grandeur, which could only be 
diluted or diverted by the provision of some equally glamorous 
vision. Only by dangling before their expectant eyes the prospects of 
a vast colonial Empire in Africa and Asia could these elated aspira- 
tions be assuaged.* 

The British Admiralty, as was inevitable, took steps to counter 
this increasing menace. Sir John Fisher strengthened our Home 
Fleet by withdrawing capital ships from the Mediterranean. On 
February 10, 1906, the first Dreadnought was launched and the race 
for naval power entered a new and even more competitive phase. 1 


King George preferred concord to tension: he regretted the 
acerbity which had entered into Anglo-German relations and he 

x The Germans contended that by creating the Dreadnought type, 
and thereby rendering obsolete all previous battleships, we sacrificed the 
advantage of numbers which until then we had possessed. Admiral von 
Tirpitz goes so far as to claim that by introducing the Dreadnought we 
enabled Germany to start level with ourselves and 'automatically doubled' 
the fighting force of the German Navy (Memoirs, I, p. 263). We certainly 
took a risk, but it must be remembered that the Kiel Canal had to be 
widened and deepened before it could pass Dreadnoughts from the Baltic 
to the North Sea. This work could not be, and was not, completed until 
the late summer of 1914, and at the cost to the Reich of twelve million 
pounds. By then, our superiority in Dreadnoughts was assured, 
1 80 

i9 10 King George and William If 

sought to introduce a less irritable, less touchy, tone into the manners 
both of London and Berlin. Baron von Kiihlmann, who was a close 
and clever observer, expressed the opinion that it was from the year 
of King George's accession that he would date the first deliberate 
efforts of British statesmen and publicists to understand the German 
problem.* The early Victorian conception of 'dear little Germany* 
scarcely survived the blood and iron of the Bismarck epoch. The 
Edwardians were almost equally at fault in identifying the German 
Empire with the caricature of a braggart youth, claiming with 
vulgar, vaunting voice to share, perhaps even to acquire, the privi- 
leges of his elders and betters. By 1910 a less ignorant diagnosis of the 
German malady had qualified our earlier assumptions. People began 
to realise that here was a newly welded nation of some sixty million 
gifted, industrious but neurotic people; a nation which had arrived 
so late at the imperialist banquet that she had only been accorded a 
few grudging scraps; a nation elated by her seething intelligence and 
energy and naturally claiming her own place in the sun. It was 
unfortunate that the psychological misunderstanding which per- 
sisted during the first ten years of the century should, for so many 
Germans and Englishmen, have been set, formulated and crystallised 
by distorted preconceptions of the personalities of King Edward and 
William II. For the Germans, King Edward seemed the personifica- 
tion of the leisured self-assurance, the indolent condescension, which 
they assumed to be the general attitude of England towards Ger- 
many and which filled them with envy, mortification and rage. To 
the English, the Emperor William II seemed the personification of 
the flamboyant self-assertiveness of the new Germany, a type of 
energy which they pretended to find amusing, but which in fact 
created a vague and increasing apprehension. It is a misfortune 
when two great fraternal nations come to misconceive each other in 
terms of their respective caricatures: we failed to appreciate their 
sensitiveness and they failed to realise our pride; and when, between 
1910 and 1914, less impetuous, less superficial, more serious im- 
pressions began to percolate, the gulf had already widened; the 
damage had been done. 

The difficult nephew-unde relationship which had so galled the 
German Emperor during King Edward's lifetime, was now replaced 
by the happier, easier, association of elder and younger cousin. King 
George had always been grateful for the sympathy manifested by the 
Emperor during the difficult years of the South African War and he 
was touched by the deep and perfectly sincere veneration with which 


The Victoria Memorial 
William II honoured the memory of their common grandmother, 
Queen Victoria. In May 1910, they had stood alone together beside 
the catafalque of King Edward in Westminster Hall and had 
silently clasped hands in token of confidence and friendship.' 
Anxious as he was to mitigate the bitterness which had arisen be- 
tween the two countries, King George felt that it would be useful to 
renew this amicable association. The unveiling of the memorial to 
Queen Victoria had been fixed for the second week in May 1911. 
King George wrote to the German Emperor inviting him, as the 
eldest of Queen Victoria's grandchildren, to be present at this 
inauguration. He received a warm and affectionate reply: 

'Let me thank you most cordially*, the German Emperor wrote on 
February 15, 1911, e for the very kind letter in which you invite Dona 
and me to be present at dear Grandmama's unveiling. You cannot 
imagine how overjoyed I am at the prospect of seeing you again so 
soon & making a nice stay with you. You are perfectly right in alluding 
to my devotion & reverence for my beloved Grandmother, with whom 
I was on such excellent terms. I shall never forget how kindly this 
great lady always was to me & the relations she kept up with me, 
though I was so far her junior, she having carried me about in her 
arms! Never in my life shall I forget the solemn hours in Osborne at 
her deathbed when she breathed her last in my arms! These sacred 
hours have riveted my heart firmly to your house & family, of which 
I am proud to feel myself a member. And the fact that for the last 
hours I held the sacred burden of her the creator of the greatness of 
Britain in my arms, in my mind created an invincible special link 
between her country & its People & me and one which I fondly nurse 
in my heart. This your invitation so to say sanctions these ideas of 
mine. You kindly refer to the fact of my being her eldest grandson: a 
fact I was always immensely proud of and never forgot. 9 

This letter was a sincere expression of the better side of the 
German Emperor's strangely ambivalent feelings towards his 
mother's country. He believed that the occasion might serve to 
improve the relations between England and Germany and was dis- 
appointed when both Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg and Sir Edward 
Grey insisted that the visit should be regarded as a purely family 
gathering and that no political conversations should take place.* 
The three days which the Emperor spent in London were none the 
less auspicious; the crowds in the streets greeted him with marked 
enthusiasm; he returned to Berlin with 'the best impressions*; never, 
as he informed his Chancellor, had he felt the atmosphere at 
Buckingham Palace to be *so free, so open, or so friendly*. 

The ceremony of the unveiling took place on the morning of 

The Morocco question 

May 1 6. Preceded by Beefeaters, the King and the Empress, the Em- 
peror and Queen Mary, walked in slow procession from Buckingham 
Palace along a wide blue carpet, flanked by Gentlemen-at-Arms. 
The large monument which Sir Thomas Brock had erected was of 
dazzling whiteness, unrelieved by the bronze figures of Peace and 
Progress, of Industry and Agriculture, which today flaunt the 
hammer and the sickle at the Palace gates. The facade behind them 
was still the dingy frontage which Edward Blore had designed in 
1846; Sir Aston Webb's engaged and tidy columns were still to come. 
The King pulled the cord and the white canvas which draped the 
statue fell in a soft heap. The sun shone, the guns saluted, the bands 
played national anthems, the distant crowds cheered in rapture, and 
the choir of St Paul's Cathedral sang c Oh God, our help in ages 
past 9 . Those who were present at this ceremony never forgot the sun- 
shine, the colour and the high auguries of that May morning. 

The German Emperor was deeply moved. This did not prevent 
him, at the very hour of his departure, when King George had come 
to his apartments to bid him a last few words of farewell, from raising 
a political question which was again causing international concern. 
He raised the question of Morocco. 


It will be recalled that under the Franco-German Agreement 
concluded on February 8, 1909, Germany had recognised France's 
special responsibility for preserving peace and order in Morocco, 
while France had promised that Germany should be given equality 
of economic opportunity. The latter undertaking was interpreted in 
Berlin as securing a Franco-German 'economic condominium 5 . 1 

For a while the 1909 Agreement worked smoothly enough, but 
disputes and difficulties soon arose. Sultan Abdul Aziz (an intelligent 
but lax young man) had in 1908 been deposed by his brother, Mulai 
Hafid. The short civil war which this occasioned had left Morocco in 
a state of internal chaos. The tribes refused to recognise the Sultan's 
authority and eminent foreign residents were kidnapped and held to 
ransom by local brigand bands. Divergent interpretations were 
moreover given in Berlin and Paris to the implications of the 
'economic condominium'. The new Sultan had accorded conflicting 
concessions to French and German firms and a bitter argument arose 
as to the degree to which German capital and technicians could 
participate in the construction and management of the projected 


The French expedition to Fez 

railway system. By the end of 1910 the German Government 

were accusing the French of wishing to evade their economic 


By January 1911, insurgent tribes had invested the Moorish 
capital and the Sultan appealed for French assistance. His appeal 
was warmly supported by the European residents in Fez, who were in 
fact in danger of their lives. The French Government thereupon 
landed troops at Rabat and despatched a relief column under 
General Moinier, who was instructed to rescue the Sultan and the 
Christian community. On March 5, 1911, M. Jules Cambon, the 
French Ambassador at Berlin, officially notified Herr von Kiderlen- 
Waechter, the new German Foreign Secretary, of this relief expedi- 
tion. He received a sullen and disturbing reply. Herr von Kiderlen 
informed him that if French troops were to occupy Fez, it would 
mean that the Sultan would cease to be an independent Sovereign. 
This would imply that both the Act of Algeciras and the Franco- 
German Agreement of 1909 had lost all validity and Germany must 
therefore resume her 'complete liberty of action*. An ominous silence 

It is now dear from published German documents that Herr von 
Kiderlen- Waechter had already decided that the 'economic con- 
dominium* would in practice prove unworkable and that Morocco 
was not worth a war. What he hoped to do was to inveigle France 
into direct negotiations, to isolate her from Great Britain and Russia, 
and to force her to pay a vast sum, in terms of colonial territory, for 
Germany's assent to her Moroccan enterprise. In order to exert the 
required pressure it would first be necessary (since such are the sad 
operations of the German mind) to obtain a pawn or lever. On 
May 3, 1911, Herr von Kiderlen composed a memorandum m in 
which he stated that Germany 'must secure an object which will 
make the French ready to give us compensation'. The lever, or 
'Faustpfand 9 , which he contemplated was the simple expedient of 
sending a German warship to some southern Moorish port. 

Such was the position when the German Emperor came to 
London for the unveiling of the Queen Victoria memorial. The 
Emperor, being a pacific man, had not been much attracted by Herr 
von Kiderlen's suggested stratagem. Ever since his own unfortunate 
visit to Tangier in 1905 he had loathed the Moorish question; he 
feared that so intemperate an act might unnecessarily disturb Ger- 
many's relations, not with France only, but also with the latter's 
friends. It was this subject therefore that, in an off-hand manner, he 

Was King George forewarned? 

raised with King George a few minutes only before they were both 
leaving for the railway station. 

Accounts differ as to what actually transpired in the course of 
that conversation. There exists no mention or record of it in the 
Royal Archives. The version which, many years later, the Emperor 
gave in his Memoirs is probably correct: 

C I asked him if he considered that the French methods were still in 
accordance with the Algeciras Agreement. The King remarked that 
the Agreement, to tell the truth, was no longer in force, that the best 
thing to do was to forget it; that the French, fundamentally, were 
doing nothing different in Morocco from what the English had 
previously done in Egypt; that, therefore, England would place no 
obstacles in the path of the French, and would follow their own 
course; that the only thing to do was to recognize tine fait accompli of 
the occupation of Morocco and make arrangements for commercial 
protection with France.'" 

In a note made by Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg on the Em- 
peror's return to Berlin it is added that William II had assured his 
cousin that he would 'never wage a war for the sake of Morocco' but 
that Germany might claim compensations in Africa. To this sug- 
gestion, notes Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, His Majesty made no 
reply. This may well be true. But at a subsequent date, when the 
despatch of the German cruiser Panther to Agadir had created a 
major European crisis, the Emperor spread the story that, when at 
Buckingham Palace, he had warned King George of his intention to 
take this action and that His Majesty had agreed. The Emperor 
could not understand therefore why the British Government there- 
after had adopted an attitude of outraged surprise. 1 

King George, when he heard this story, was much perplexed: 

'What really happened', he said to Count Mensdorff,* c was that, just 
before the Emperor was leaving, he raised the Morocco question. . . . 

iSir Cecil Spring Rice, at that time British Minister at Stockholm, 
informed King George in a private letter of September 24, 1911 (R.A. 
M.22Q-5) that the German Emperor on the occasion of a naval review at 
Stettin, had told the King of Sweden that he had warned King George 
of his intention to send a warship to southern Morocco and that the latter 
had raised no objection. The Germans, Sir Cecil added, interpreted this 
as a deliberate manoeuvre on our part to embroil Germany and France. 
First we 'encouraged' Germany to send a cruiser to Agadir and then we 
urged France to resist the ensuing pressure. If such were in fact their 
suspicions, their distortion of King George's motives was typical of their 
distressing habit of seeing in chance incidents some elaborate stratagem, 
conspiracy or 'system'. 


The 'Panther' at Agadir 1911 

I \\ill not deny that he perhaps could have said something about a ship, 
although I do not recall it. If he did, I thought of Mogador: in any 
case, he did not mention Agadir. And I absolutely did not express to 
him my own, or my Government's consent to any such action.' 

The King added that it was his personal conviction that the 
German Emperor was a man of peace. The difficulty was that he 
might not for ever be strong enough to control his own militarists, 
since he was sensitive to their criticisms of his unwarlike hesitations. 
c No man/ remarked King George, likes to be called a coward. 5 

The Emperor William, in common with other members of the 
Hohenzollern family, and indeed with most of his compatriots, was 
inclined to note and to remember only what he desired to hear. He 
would disregard, or dismiss as c arrant hypocrisy 9 the conciliatory 
speeches of statesmen or the leading articles of the more responsible 
newspapers; he would base deductions upon some chance article 
contributed to a regimental magazine. It is evident none the less that 
he returned from that May visit to London, deeply affected by the 
friendliness of his reception, and convinced that the British Govern- 
ment and people were in a mood of amicable acquiescence. The 
doubts which had at first assailed him regarding the wisdom of 
sending a warship to southern Morocco, melted in the sun of that 
delightful experience. He now agreed with Herr von Kiderlen- 
Waechter that the moment had arrived to seize a Faustpfand, on the 
assumption that Great Britain would stand aside. He was mistaken 
in this assumption. 


On July i, 1911, the German Ambassador, Count Wolff- 
Metternich, walked across to the Foreign Office and, in the absence 
of Sir Edward Grey, handed to the Permanent Under-Secretary, 
a Note stating that his Government had despatched a gunboat to 
Agadir for the purpose of protecting the lives and properties of 
certain 'Hamburg merchants* established in that area. Sir Arthur 
Nicolson said he would immediately inform Sir Edward Grey of this 
grave communication but pointed out that Agadir was not a trading 
port and that, to the best of his knowledge, there were no German 
merchants, whether from Hamburg or elsewhere, south of the Atlas 
mountains. 1 On his return to London on July 4, Sir Edward Grey 

1 According to Herr Friedrich Rosen (who had been German Minister 
in Morocco from 1905-1910) a young employee of the Hamburg- 
Morocco Company of the name of Wilberg had been hurriedly despatched 

Mr Lloyd George's speech 

had an interview \vith the German Ambassador, in which he in- 
formed him that the despatch of a German gunboat to Agadir had 
created *a new, highly important and delicate situation', that Great 
Britain (whose commercial interests in Morocco were far more 
important than any German interests) must insist on taking part in 
any discussions which might ensue, and that we should not recognise 
any arrangement made without our knowledge and consent. 5 To 
this formidable intimation the German Government vouchsafed no 
answer for seventeen days. 

The reason for this 'oppressive silence' was that the German 
Government hoped, by using the lever they had secured at Agadir, 
and by isolating France from Great Britain, to force the French to 
pay enormous compensation in return for a free hand in Morocco. 
They were encouraged in this expectation by the fact that M. 
Gaillaux, who had recently succeeded Monsieur Monis as head of the 
French Government, was known to be an advocate of a new deal with 
Germany and a hostile critic of the Entente with Great Britain. In 
the negotiations which continued between M. Jules Cambon and 
Herr von Kiderlen-Waechter, the latter had started by demanding 
as his price the whole of the French Congo. He warned M. Cambon 
that, if her demands were disregarded, Germany might be forced 
to adopt 'extreme measures'. News of this menace reached the 
British Government, who became seriously concerned. On July 21 
Sir Edward Grey invited Count Metternich to visit him, commented 
upon the seventeen days 5 silence which the German Government had 
observed, and insisted that Great Britain must be admitted to the 

That evening the Lord Mayor gave his annual dinner to the 
Bankers of the City of London. The principal speaker on that 
occasion was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, after paying the 
accustomed compliments to our great merchant community and 
lauding the financial stability of the realm, added this fulminating 
passage, which he had previously submitted to the Prime Minister 
and Sir Edward Grey: 

c lf , said Mr Lloyd George, c a situation were to be forced upon us in 
which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and 
beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism and 

to the Agadir area in order to impersonate the 'Hamburg merchants'. He 
experienced difficulty in penetrating the passes of the Adas mountains 
and only reached Agadir after the Panther had arrived (Rosen, pp. 338- 



The Cambon-Kiderlen agreement 

achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated, where her interests 
were vitally affected, as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of 
Nations, . . . then I say emphatically that peace at that price would 
be a humiliation, intolerable for a great country like ours to endure.* 

It must be remembered that at the time Mr Lloyd George was 
regarded abroad as the leader of the pacifist wing of the Cabinet 
and as an ardent champion of agreement with Germany. That such 
a man, at such a moment, should use language so forceful and 
incisive filled the Germans with consternation and the French with 
revived courage. The immediate German reaction was to retort with 
violence; on July 24 the unfortunate Count Metternich was in- 
structed to deliver to the British Government an intimation of so 
stiff a character that Sir Edward Grey feared that it meant war. 
Precautionary orders were issued to the fleet, extra guards were 
placed upon our naval depots and magazines, and the military 
manoeuvres which were then taking place were cancelled 'owing to 
the scarcity of water in Wiltshire and the neighbouring counties'. 
These movements, unprovocative though they were, did not escape 
the notice of the German Government. Herr von Kiderlen-Waechter 
adopted a less minatory tone in his negotiations with that great 
diplomatist, Monsieur Jules Cambon. In the end, on November 4, 
1911, an agreement was concluded between France and Germany 
by which the former obtained a free hand to establish a Protectorate 
in Morocco and at the price, not of the whole Congo, but of an area 
of only 100,000 square miles. The Agadir crisis was over: the efficacy 
of the Entente had been reaffirmed. 


It may seem strange that the presence in an unknown Atlantic 
harbour of one little ship, carrying a complement of only 125 
men, should have brought Europe to the very lip of catastrophe. 
The German object had been to secure great accretions to the 
colonial territory she already held in Africa; and at the same time 
to manifest to the world, and above all to France and Russia, that 
British democracy was too indolent and peace-loving to provide, in 
times of menace, a stable buttress for the Triple Entente. Had not 
the rulers of Germany been blinded by the fallacy that you can 
persuade great nations by force; had the methods of the German 
Foreign Office been less blustering and more consistent; the France 
of M. Caillaux might well have been induced to surrender much of 
1 88 

if) 1 1 The Committee of Imperial Defence 

her own Colonial territory and Great Britain might well have hesi- 
tated, until it was too late, to intervene. 

The Agadir crisis proved, as Sir Edward Grey judged, c a fiasco 
for Germany'/ There is no doubt, 5 wrote Mr Winston Churchill, 
'that deep and violent passions of humiliation and resentment were 
coursing beneath the glittering uniforms which thronged the palaces 
through which the Kaiser moved.' * Admiral von Tirpitz, loudly 
proclaiming that Germany had suffered the severest diplomatic 
humiliation in her history, insisted that the only way to salve these 
wounds was immediately to introduce a tremendous Supplementary 
Naval Estimate.* Lord Haldane, on looking back in after life to the 
years before the war, expressed the view that it was Germany's 
diplomatic discomfiture at the time of Agadir which drove the 
Emperor finally away from Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg and into 
the camp of Admiral von Tirpitz and his even more violent associ- 
ates. 'The Agadir incident', concluded Herr von Rosen," 'brought 
the danger of war substantially nearer/ 'The consequences', wrote 
Sir Edward Grey, in his melancholy wisdom, 'of such a foreign crisis 
do not end with it. They seem to end: but they go underneath and 
reappear later on.' 

The threat of sudden war, with which the country had so 
unexpectedly been faced between the months of July and November 
xgii^ obliged Mr Asquith's Government immediately to review the 
co-ordination of our defences, the nature of our commitments and 
our general relations with all Foreign Powers. The Dominion Prime 
Ministers who were present in London for the Coronation festivities 
had already, on May 26, 1911, attended a full meeting of the 
Committee of Imperial Defence. Certain arrangements had been 
agreed to for naval and military co-operation in time of war and 
consent was given to the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance for 
a further period often years. 1 On August 23, 1911, at the height of 
the Agadir crisis, a special meeting of the Committee of Imperial 
Defence was summoned to examine the state of our preparedness; 
the meeting was addressed for one and three-quarter hours by 
General Sir Henry Wilson, Director of Military Operations.* It was 
discovered that the plans prepared by the War Office conflicted 

1 This alliance, which had first been concluded in 1902, was therefore, 
on July 13, 1911, renewed until 1921. It enabled Japan to occupy Korea 
and it helped us to strengthen our naval position in home waters. In 1901, 
for instance, we kept 5 battleships and 33 cruisers in the Pacific: in 1910 
we had no battleships there and only 19 cruisers. 


Franco-British conversations 

with those which the Admiralty had in mind. The Prime Minister 
decided therefore that it was essential to create a Naval War Staff 
in the Admiralty and he invited Mr Winston Churchill to undertake 
this delicate task. Mr Churchill succeeded Mr Reginald McKenna 
as First Lord on October 23, 19 1 1 . On relinquishing his post as Home 
Secretary for this fresh and congenial activity Mr Churchill addressed 
to the King a letter, the conventional tone of which fails to conceal a 
natural buoyancy. 

'In delivering my seals to Your Majesty this morning I should be sensible 
of many regrets at ceasing to be Your Majesty's Principal Secretary 
of State, were it not for the fact that the great service of the sea, upon 
which the life and honour of the realm depends, is one with which 
Your Majesty is so intimately associated by a life-time of practical 
experience, and that I know I may recur to Your Majesty for aid and 
support in the duties entrusted to me by Your Majesty's gracious 

Meanwhile, the unofficial exchange of views, which since 1906 
had been proceeding, without the knowledge of the Cabinet as a 
whole, between members of the French and British General Staffs, 
were allowed to continue, on the strict, and oft repeated, under- 
standing that these conversations should not be interpreted as 
committing either Government in the event of war. 1 

By the late autumn of 1911, with the signature of the final 
Cambon-Kiderlen Agreements of November 4, the crisis appeared, 
for the moment at least, to have receded. The King was able to leave 
for India with an easier mind. 

1 During the first Morocco crisis of 1905-1906 the French Government 
had enquired whether, in the event of war, we should be able to send an 
Expeditionary Force of 100,000 men to protect the French left flank. 
Mr Haldane, after consultation with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, 
Mr Asquith and Sir Edward Grey, thereupon authorised General Grierson, 
at that time Director of Military Operations at the War Office, to enter 
into unofficial conversations with Major Huguet, the French Military 
Attach6 in London. It was largely as a result of these conversations that 
Mr Haldane realised it would be necessary 'to attempt a complete revolu- 
tion in the organisation of the British Army at home 9 . These discussions 
continued in a somewhat desultory form for years and were given more 
detailed application after 1912 under the energetic impulse of Sir Henry 
Wilson. They will again be mentioned at a later stage. (See Haldane, 
Before the War, pp. 30-33, and Repington, The First World War, volume I, 
chapter I.) 





The Italian seizure of Tripoli Discussions with Germany on naval 
armaments Sir Ernest Gassel The Haldane mission The German 
Navy Law of 1912 Our counter-measures The King resumes his 
accustomed routine His visit to the Fleet And to Aldershot His 
tours in South Wales and the West Riding The autumn manoeuvres 
First signs of the Irish Controversy The Home Rule Bill intro- 
duced into the House of Commons, April n, 1912 Mr Asquith in 
Dublin The Blenheim rally- The Ulster Covenant Suggestions 
that the King should refuse the Royal Assent Mr Bonar Law's 
proposals Disorder in the House of Commons The King com- 
plains to Mr Asquith that he is not kept sufficiently informed Sir 
Edward Grey and M. Sazonov at Balmoral The First Balkan War- 
Prince Henry of Prussia at York Cottage. 

THE GRAVE commotion occasioned by the Agadir crisis and the 
prospect that France would now obtain, with the tacit consent of 
the Great Powers, a protectorate over Morocco, induced Italy to 
declare war on Turkey with the object of securing for herself the 
Libyan provinces of Tripoli and Gyrenaica. Sultan Mehmed V, on 
September 28, 191 1, addressed to King George a despairing telegram 
begging him 'in his quality of August Defender of the Sanctity of 
Treaties and as Protector of peace 9 to bring about a pacific settle- 
ment of the conflict. The King replied that he must *in accordance 
with invariable practice, reserve the questions at issue for dis- 
cussion through my Ministers 9 . He was well aware of the serious 
implications of the Italian action and of the repercussions which it 
was bound to have upon Moslem feeling in India and elsewhere. He 
was warned by Sir Arthur Nicolson that this flagrant attack by a 
Great Power upon the integrity of the Ottoman Empire would be 
certain to excite the appetites of smaller countries and that c the 
Balkans will begin to move 9 . 5 It was evident that the Concert of 
Europe was in process of dislocation. A determined, and for a while 
not unsuccessful effort, was made to recreate it. 

The first essential was to reach with Germany some form of 
understanding which, by removing points of friction, might (on the 


The Haldane mission 
analogs- of our Agreement with France in 1904, and with Russia in 
1907) alleviate the present tense atmosphere of rancour and distrust. 
The occasion was not inauspicious. The British Government had 
been seriously alarmed by the sudden danger which had faced them 
in July 1911: the German Government had realised that their suc- 
cessive Kraftproben, or trials offeree, had served to integrate rather 
than to disintegrate the Triple Entente. Moreover they had been 
perturbed by the financial panic which their bellicose attitude 
during the Morocco crisis had aroused among the bankers of Berlin 
and Hamburg. The German Chancellor, Herr von Bethmann- 
Hollweg, was overtly anxious to reach some settlement: it was hoped 
that, if compensations were offered to Germany in other fields, she 
might be willing to abate, or at least to postpone, the formidable 
increase in naval construction which she was then known to be 

Unofficial discussions first took place between Herr Albert Ballin 
of the Hamburg-America Line and Sir Ernest Cassel. On January 
29, 1912, the latter arrived in Berlin bringing with him a memo- 
randum which had been approved by the British Cabinet and in 
which it was indicated that, if Germany were willing to reduce or 
retard her new naval programme, Great Britain would be prepared 
to discuss colonial compensations and even to consider some formula 
debarring either party from entering into aggressive designs or 
combinations against the other. The German Emperor interpreted 
this last suggestion as implying an unconditional offer of British 
neutrality in the event of Germany becoming involved in a war. c 
Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, while welcoming the overture, stated 
that unfortunately the Supplementary Navy Estimates, or 'Novelle', 
had already been approved.* Sir Ernest Cassel returned to London 
with the distressing information that the Novelle would provide 
for the construction of three new German Dreadnoughts. He added 
that both the Emperor and the Chancellor had intimated that they 
would be glad notwithstanding to welcome a visit from a British 
Minister. The Cabinet immediately decided that Lord Haldane 
should go to Berlin in order to explore the ground. He reached the 
German capital on February 8, 1912. 

Lord Haldane's conversations were not facilitated by the fact 
that, on the day after his arrival in Berlin, Mr Winston Churchill 
delivered in Glasgow a speech in which he referred to the German 
navy as c a luxury 5 . The German word 'Luxus* possesses associations 
less inoffensive than its English equivalent; the Emperor and 


(The King and the German Emperor) 

The neutrality formula 

Admiral von Tirpitz were indignant, 'Nobody', King George re- 
marked to Count Mensdorff, 'regretted Winston's slip more than 
Winston.* But offence had been caused. 

The King followed the course of these short and fruitless negotia- 
tions with intense interest. 'His Majesty could not 5 , remarked Lord 
Haldane afterwards, 'have displayed a warmer desire for my 
success.'* Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg took the unusual step of 
sending a personal message to King George, thanking him for 'the 
confidence he had shown in his policy*/ It was true that the King 
believed in the sincerity of the Chancellor's desire for peace; all he 
feared was that the Emperor in the last resort would listen only to 
Admiral von Tirpitz: *a formidable man, a sort of Fisher'. These 
apprehensions were not unjustified. 

In his successive conversations with the Emperor and Herr von 
Bethmann-Hollweg, Lord Haldane endeavoured to obtain some 
assurance that the new Navy Law would be modified or retarded in 
return for colonial compensations and some neutrality formula. 
Such places as Zanzibar, Angola and the Belgian Congo were men- 
tioned as possible areas of German expansion. It was the neutrality 
formula which caused the main difficulty. Herr von Bethmann- 
Hollweg suggested that Great Britain and Germany should bind 
themselves not to make or join any combination directed against the 
other and to maintain a 'benevolent neutrality' should either of them 
become involved in war. Lord Haldane pointed out that such an 
engagement would prevent us from coming to the assistance of 
France if she were attacked by Germany and was, in any case, in- 
consistent with our treaty obligations to Japan, Portugal and Bel- 
gium. He put forward an alternative formula, by which we should 
undertake not to join 'any combination for purposes of aggression 5 
and should remain neutral in a war in which Germany 'could not be 
said to be the aggressor'. The Germans, with some justice, pointed 
out that the word 'aggressor' was a purely relative term and not one 
which could figure with any precision in a contractual obligation. 

Lord Haldane then returned to London, bringing with him the 
draft of the German Novelle, or Supplementary Navy Law. It was in 
truth a formidable document. 1 'The maintenance', wrote Mr 

1 The Novelle of 1 9 1 2 provided for: 
i Fleet flagship. 

5 Squadrons of 8 battleships each. 
1 2 Large cruisers. 
30 Small cruisers. 

G 193 

The German Xovelle 
Churchill to Sir Edward Grey after the Admiralty experts had 
examined these estimates, 'of twenty-five battleships (which, after 
the next four or five years will all be Dreadnoughts) exposes us to 
constant danger, only to be warded off by vigilance, approximating 
to war conditions.'* In face of such a menace, the Cabinet did not 
feel justified in pursuing the colonial proposals which Lord Haldane 
had adumbrated; nor were they prepared to accept the neutrality 
formula which he had advanced. The Haldane mission failed, there- 
fore, in its main purpose, which was to secure a reduction in German 
naval armaments. Admiral von Tirpitz was overjoyed. c After Hal- 
dane's visit', he writes with glee, 'when our extravagant desire for 
an understanding led the English to believe for a time that they 
could treat us like Portugal the Government in London refused an 
agreement on neutrality/* It was from that moment that the 
military party began to acquire increasing control over the Em- 
peror and the destinies of Germany. 

Mr Churchill's reaction to the Novelle was immediate. On 
March 18, 1912, in presenting the Naval Estimates to the House of 
Commons, he laid down the principle that our naval construction 
during the next five years must remain at 60% in Dreadnoughts over 
Germany and at a ratio of two keels to one for every additional ship 
that she laid down. He at the same time decided that it was desirable, 
as a temporary measure, to withdraw our battleships from the 
Mediterranean, in order to have in home waters a Third Battle 
Squadron in full commission. 1 Supplementary Naval Estimates had 
again to be presented on July 22. Meanwhile the German Novelle 
was laid before the Reichstag on April 14 and passed a month later. 


On his return from India, the King resumed his routine of 
functions and visits, of audiences and reviews. Day after day, week 

8 Large cruisers for foreign service, 
i o Small cruisers for foreign service. 

6 Submarines to be constructed annually up to a total of 72 . 
The most significant feature of this law was the creation and maintenance 
of a Third Battle Squadron of eight battleships. 

1 There were some experts who regarded as dangerous this weakening 
of our naval power in the Mediterranean. They argued that it would 
render us too dependent upon the French navy at Toulon and might lead 
to a combination of the Italian and Austrian fleets against us. Lord Esher 
warned the King that it would mean the loss of India and Egypt, the dis- 
ruption of the Entente, the weakening of the Commonwealth, and the 
eventual subservience to Germany of both Italy and Spain (R.A. 6.393.5) 


igi2 Functions and ceremonies 

after week, year after year, his diary records the recurrent similitude 
of these incessant public duties. However worried he might be by the 
dangers of the internal or external situation, however perplexed by 
the enigma of his own constitutional obligations, the forefront of his 
life was always filled by the ceaseless durance of ceremony, by the 
need, on every occasion, to confront, with apparent pleasure, the 
staring of a million eyes. It is necessary, when relating the efforts and 
energies of this lifetime of devoted service, when examining the vast 
events which stride across that quarter of a century, to bear in mind 
the appointed burdens which marred his privacy and made such 
heavy claims upon his vigour. Some conception of this unremitting 
activity can be conveyed by recording a few only of the varied duties 
which occupied him during the early months of 1912. They are no 
more than typical of those which, in every year of his reign, he was 
constrained to fulfill. 

On February 6, the day after they had landed at Portsmouth, 
the King and Queen drove in state to the City and attended a 
Thanksgiving Service in St Paul's Cathedral. Lord Curzon, in an 
interview which lasted for more than an hour, criticised with his 
accustomed trenchancy the transference of the Indian capital to 
Delhi and the reversion of the partition of Bengal. On February 
14 the King and Queen drove to Westminster for the opening 
of Parliament. February 22 offered a sudden vacuum: 'Went 
for a solitary walk in the garden with my umbrella as a com- 
panion.* Within a week there followed the grave anxiety of the coal 
strike. In the early spring the King was deprived for a few weeks of 
the services of Lord Stamfordham. During the latter's illness, his 
place was taken by the Assistant Private Secretary, Major Clive 

'Wigram', the King wrote to Lord Stamfordham on April 29, *has 
done quite splendidly: never made a mistake: is simply a glutton for 
work, besides being a charming fellow. I am indeed lucky in having 
found a man like him. 9 * 

In May, the King paid a visit to the Fleet at Portland. Accom- 
panied by his second son, as well as by Mr Churchill and Captain 
Roger Keyes, he boarded the submarine 04, under the command of 
Lieutenant Nasmith, and enjoyed the experience of travelling sub- 
merged for a distance of three miles. A week later he spent five days 
at the Royal Pavilion^ Aldershot, inspecting the troops under 
General Sir Douglas Haig*s command. On his return to London, he 
entertained at Buckingham Palace the Archduke Franz Ferdinand 


The King and industrial areas 1912 

of Austria and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg: They are both 
charming & made themselves very pleasant.' On June 24 the new 
German Ambassador, Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, presented 
his letters of credence. 1 During these same weeks, the King attended 
a jamboree of the Boy Scouts, laid the foundation stone of the new 
City Hall and was rowed in the state barge along the course at 
Henley. On the next day the King and Queen left for South Wales 
and Yorkshire. 

King George, as has been said, always considered it essential 
that the Sovereign should travel throughout the country and should 
show himself to those of his subjects who could but rarely witness 
the great pageants of London. These recurrent tours of the industrial 
and mining areas (during which the King and Queen would drive 
through the surrounding villages, visit factories, mills and mines, 
and speak to the workers in their homes) became a marked feature 
of his reign. He was delighted, on this occasion, by the reception 
accorded to him in South Wales: 'They gave me an extraordinary 
welcome. It was all Keir Hardie's constituency.' A few days later he 
and the Queen were in the West Riding of Yorkshire, establishing 
their headquarters at Wentworth Woodhouse and motoring through 
the surrounding district. On July 9 they visited the Gadeby colliery 
and thereafter went down the Elsecar mine, remaining for more than 
half an hour at a thousand feet below the earth. On their return that 
evening to Wentworth Woodhouse the news was brought to them 
that a serious accident involving the death of 78 miners, had occurred 
in the Gadeby colliery after their departure. Late though it was, the 
King decided to drive back to Gadeby. c We went', he wrote, c to 
enquire & express our sympathy with those who had lost their dear 
ones. There was a large crowd of miners outside the offices & they 
appreciated our coming.' During their last evening at Wentworth 
Woodhouse the Sheffield Choir came out to serenade them, accom- 
panied by a torchlight procession which the miners had organised. 
The King stepped out on to the portico and expressed his thanks: 

1 Baron Marschall von Bieberstein was born in Baden in 1842. In 1890 
he succeeded Count Herbert Bismarck as Secretary of State. In 1897 he 
was appointed German Ambassador in Constantinople, where he re- 
mained for almost fifteen years. In May 1912, after the dismissal of Count 
Metternich, he was appointed Ambassador in London, but died in 
September of that year. He was a man of forceful personality and might, 
had he lived, have countered the influence of Admiral von Tirpitz 
and done much to improve Anglo-German relations (see Kuhlmann, 


The Home Rule question 

'My friends', he said to them, 'It has been a great pleasure to us to 
visit your homes and see you at your daily work. We are deeply touched 
by the reception given to us wherever we have been during the last 
four days; a reception which we shall never forget and which made us 
feel we were among true friends. Again we thank you for your hearty 
welcome. We wish you Good night! Good luck! 9 

On July 12 the King and Queen returned to Buckingham Palace. 
'We must have seen', he wrote in his diary that night, 'at least 
3,000,000 people since Monday.' A week later a State Ball was given 
at the Palace to some two thousand guests. Thank goodness!' the 
King commented, The last Court function this year!' After a week 
at Cowes, and a few days' visit to the Duke of Devonshire at Bolton 
Abbey, the King and Queen went to Balmoral. Within a fortnight he 
was on duty again, attending the autumn manoeuvres at Cambridge. 
He stayed in the Master's Lodge at Trinity College and was much 
entertained by the vivacity of Dr Butler's conversation. It was on this 
occasion that he first met General Foch of the French General Staff: 
*I had', he recorded, 'several long talks with him.' The King 
returned to Balmoral on September 2O. 1 

These routine and ceremonial activities provide a contrast to the 
political troubles with which he was at the time assailed. It was 
during the spring and summer of 1912 that the Irish problem first 
faced him with an issue, more disturbing even than the battle 
between the Commons and the Lords. 


The General Elections of 1910 and the abolition of the veto of 
the House of Lords had rendered it inevitable that Mr Asquith would 
introduce, and force through Parliament, a Bill providing for some 
measure of Home Rule in Ireland. The Irish Nationalists under Mr 
Redmond were resolved to use the determinant vote which they 
possessed in the House of Commons in order to compel the Govern- 
ment to fulfil the somewhat hesitant promises which they had made. 2 

1 An amusing account of these manoeuvres is given in General Seeley's 
Fear and be Slain (pp. 79 ff) . 

2 It should be realised that at this date Mr Redmond and his followers 
in the House of Commons were assumed to be fully representative of Irish 
opinion and wishes. The United Irish League, the Ancient Order of 
Hibernians and the Irish Republican Brotherhood were at the time 
believed to represent only an eccentric minority. The Labour movement 
under James Larkin and Connolly, with headquarters at Liberty 
Hall, Dublin, was regarded as a syndicalist organisation. The Gaelic 

The Bill introduced 1912 

The Protestants of Ulster, warmly supported by the Unionist Party 
in England, had determined that they would never allow themselves 
to be subjected to the rule of a Roman Catholic Parliament sitting in 
Dublin. On February 21, 1910, Sir Edward Carson had accepted the 
leadership of the Irish Unionist Party. In September 1911 he 
addressed a meeting at Craigavon and assured the assembled Ulster- 
men that if a Home Rule Bill were forced through the English Parlia- 
ment he would refuse to submit to it and would establish a separate 
Government in Belfast. 

On April n, 1912, Mr Asquith introduced his Home Rule Bill 
into the House of Commons. 1 Sir Edward Carson warned him that 
Home Rule for Southern Ireland would also entail Home Rule for 
Ulster. The Prime Minister replied that c it was impossible to concede 
the demand of a small minority to veto the verdict of the Irish 
Nation 3 . The Bill passed its second reading in May 9 by a majority 
of 101, and reached the Committee stage on June n. It was then 
that Mr Agar Robartes, the Liberal member for the St Austell 
Division of Cornwall, first suggested that the four Protestant counties 
of Antrim, Armagh, Londonderry and Down should be excluded 
from the operation of the Bill. The Government refused to accept 
this suggestion. Mr Redmond stated that the Irish nation must not 
be subjected to partition- Sir Edward Carson warned the House that 
he would only consider exclusion if to the four counties mentioned 
were also added Fermanagh and Tyrone. The House dispersed for 
the summer recess in a mood of confused bitterness. 2 

League was dismissed as merely antiquarian. Sinn Fein at the time was 
assumed to be composed mainly of intellectuals who, while preaching 
independence, were unlikely to resort to anything more dangerous than 
passive resistance. 

1 The Home Rule Bill of 1 9 1 2 strikes us today as a half-hearted proposal . 
It envisaged the establishment in Dublin of an Irish Parliament, consisting 
of two Chambers, and having control of all Irish matters not specifically 
reserved for the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. These reserved 
items were so numerous and important that they 'virtually reduced 9 the 
Irish National Parliament to the status of a glorified County Council 
(Alison Phillips, p. 63). 

2 A further measure which created acute controversy at the time, and 
which only became law by the operation of the Parliament Act, was the 
Welsh Disestablishment Bill. This had originally been brought forward 
by Mr Asquith in 1909 but was deferred and reintroduced in April 1912. 
It was rejected by the House of Lords in February 1913, again passed by 
the House of Commons, again rejected by the House of Lords in July 1913, 
and passed for the third time by the House of Commons in May 1914. It 

I9 12 The Ulster Covenant 

On July 20 Mr Asquith crossed to Dublin and addressed an 

enthusiastic meeting at the Gaiety Theatre. He dismissed as e a mere 

strategic manoeuvre', the suggestion that any portion of Ulster 

could be excluded from the operation of the Home Rule Bill. On 

July 27 a vast Unionist demonstration was held at Blenheim Palace. 

Sir Edward Carson on that occasion was presented by the Duke of 

Norfolk with a golden sword. It was then also that Mr Bonar Law, 

as leader of the Unionist Party, flung down the gauntlet of defiance: 

'I can imagine', he said, 'no length of resistance to which Ulster \\ill 

go, which I shall not be ready to support and in which they will not be 

supported by an overwhelming majority of the British people.* 

It is not surprising that Mr Asquith should have described this 
speech as c the reckless rodomontade of Blenheim', saying that it 
provided for the future 'a complete grammar of anarchy'. Neither 
Mr Bonar Law nor Sir Edward Carson was likely to be deterred by 
such reproofs. On September 28, 1912, in the City Hall at Belfast, on 
a small round table draped with the Union Jack, Sir Edward Carson 
was the first of many hundred thousands to sign the solemn Ulster 
Covenant. He and his followers 6 being convinced in our consciences 
that Home Rule would be subversive of our civil and religious 
freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the Unity 
of the Empire', pledged themselves *as loyal subjects of His Gracious 
Majesty King George V 5 , to use 'all means which may be found 
necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule 
Parliament in Ireland . . . and to refuse to recognise its authority 3 . 
By November 22 it was announced that this Covenant had been 
signed by half a million of the men and women of Ulster. It was no 
longer possible for Mr Asquith to contend that the Ulster protest was 
c a mere strategic manoeuvre*. Even in 1912 it was clear to many 
observers that the Home Rule controversy might threaten the realm 
with the abhorrent prospect of civil war: and even at that early date 
there were some who sought to persuade the King that, should such a 
danger materialise, it was his right, and indeed his duty, to exercise 
his Prerogative and, when the Bill had finally been forced through 
both Houses of Parliament, io refuse the Royal Assent. 

received the Royal Assent in September 1914, but, since it was regarded as 
controversial, was accompanied by a Suspensory Bill postponing its 
operation for the duration of the war. The Act finally came into operation 
on March 21, 1920, and in the following month Dr A. G. Edwards was 
enthroned as Archbishop of Wales. It is not easy to understand why a 
measure so just and logical in' itself should have aroused such violent 

The King's veto 1912 

In Lord Esher's journal there occurs the following significant 
entry for January 26, 1 9 1 2 : ' 

'The King is properly disturbed by a speech of Bonar Law's in which 
he throws the onus on H.M. of "deciding" whether the Royal Assent 
is to be given to the Home Rule Bill, on H.M's own initiative what- 
ever the advice of his Ministers may be. This is new departure in 
doctrine, the result of the Parliament Act.' 

Lord Esher at the time expressed the opinion that the King was 
not a free agent in such matters and that he would, in the last resort, 
be constitutionally obliged to follow the advice of the Ministers in 
power. Yet the King did certainly possess, Lord Esher contended, 
the power of 'remonstrance'; he was at liberty to frame his objections 
in writing, to communicate them to the Cabinet, and to insist upon 
obtaining a written reply. 

Lord Halsbury was also among those who considered that, since 
the Constitution had been "suspended 5 by the abolition of the House 
of Lords veto, the King, as guardian of that Constitution, was bound 
to bring the Royal Prerogative into operation. 'It is said', Lord 
Halsbury was quoted as asserting, 'that the King must do what he is 
bid. If so, he is not much of a King. I say that it is for His Majesty 
alone to decide whether the thing proposed to be done is good or the 
reverse for his country'. 

The King, as Mr J. A. Spender noted, possessed an excellent gift 
for ignoring bad advice. He would have paid but little attention to 
Lord Halsbury, had not the same distressing doctrine, in a somewhat 
different form, been urged upon him by the Leader of the Opposition. 
Sir Austen Chamberlain, in his Politics from Inside* gives a startling 
account of a conversation which took place between the King and 
Mr Bonar Law after a dinner party at Buckingham Palace on M[ay 3, 
1912. The King, it seems, had expressed the hope that no scenes of 
violence would take place in the House of Commons during the 
coming session. Mr Bonar Law, according to Sir Austen Chamber- 
lain's account, then addressed the King in the following disturbing 

c "Our desire", (replied Mr Law) "has been to keep the Crown out of our 
struggles, but the Government have brought it in. Your only chance is 
that they should resign within two years. If they don't, you must 
either accept the Home Rule Bill, or dismiss your Ministers and choose 
others who will support you in vetoing it: and in either case, half your 
subjects will think you have acted against them." 

'The King turned red; and Law asked "Have you ever considered 

J 9 12 Mr Bonar Law's view 

that, Sir?'* "No, 35 said the King, "it is the first time it has been suggested 
to me." 

'Law added: "They may say that your Assent is a purely formal act 
and the prerogative of veto is dead. That was true, as long as there 
was a buffer between you and the House of Commons, but they have 
destroyed this buffer and it is true no longer." ' 

In repeating this conversation to Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr 
Bonar Law commented: C I think I have given the King the worst 
five minutes he has had for a long time.' 

On subsequent consideration Mr Bonar Law modified his 
original opinion. When staying at Balmoral in the following Septem- 
ber he had frequent discussions with the King upon the constitutional 
issues involved and, before leaving, embodied his views in a written 
memorandum: 1 

*If the Home Rule Bill passes through all its stages under the Parlia- 
ment Act & requires only the Royal Assent, the position will be a 
very serious & almost impossible one for the Crown In such cir- 
cumstances, Unionists would certainly believe that the King not only 
had the constitutional right, but that it was his duty, before acting on 
the advice of his Ministers, to ascertain whether it would not be 
possible to appoint other Ministers who would advise hin\ differently 
& allow the question to be decided by the Country at a General 

Election In any case, whatever course was taken by His Majesty, 

half of his people would think that he had failed in his duty & in view 
of the very bitter feeling which would by that time have been aroused, 
the Crown would, Mr Bonar Law fears, be openly attacked b/ the 
people of Ulster & their sympathisers if he gave his assent to the Bill, & 
by a large section of the Radical Party if he took any other course. 

'Such a position is one in which the King ought not to be placed & 
Mr Bonar Law is of opinion that if H.M. put the case clearly to the 
Prime Minister, he would feel that it was his duty to extricate the 
King from so terrible a dilemma. 

"Mr Bonar Law also ventured to suggest to His Majesty that, when 
any crisis arises, it might be well to consult informally Mr Balfour, 
Lord Lansdowne or himself & he assured His Majesty that any advice 
given under such circumstances would not be influenced by Party 
considerations. 9 

On the reassembly of Parliament, and after he had had time to 
take further stock of the situation and presumably to consult his 
colleagues, Mr Bonar Law made the surprising suggestion that the 
Opposition might, as an alternative, resort to methods which would 
render impossible all further debate in the House of Commons: 

"The fact remains', he wrote to Lord Stamfordham on November 16, 
1912, 'that if the Government succeed in carrying out their programme 
two results will follow. They will be bound to coerce Ulster, and that 
02 2O I 

Scene in the House of Commons 1912 

will mean civil war; and, as I pointed out to His Majesty, there will 
then be the other result, which I think is not less important; they will 
make the position of the Crown impossible. I do not elaborate this, fox 
you understand exactly what I mean. 

*Well, if it is in our power to prevent it, we shall not permit this; and 
sooner or later, if the tension does not come to an end in some other 
way, we shall have to decide between breaking the Parliamentary 
machine and allowing these terrible results to happen. When faced 
with the choice of such evils as these, we shall not, I think, hesitate in 
considering that the injury to the House of Commons is not so great 
an evil as the other. 

C I may say, also, that I think what has happened in the House of 
Commons is an indication of what may happen in the larger field. 
The Speaker felt that he had to intervene and there is always the risk 
that the time will come when the nation will expect His Majesty to 
take, in regard to the whole nation, the same attitude which has been 
taken by the Speaker in regard to the House of Commons. I dread 
this, but the necessity may come/ 

The incidents in the House of Commons to which Mr Bonar Law 
alluded in the last paragraph of this letter bear some relation to his 
suggestion that the Opposition might be forced to resort to violent 
obstruction. On November 11 the Government were defeated by 
twenty-two votes on an amendment moved by Sir F. Banbury to the 
financial resolutions of the Home Rule Bill. On the following day 
Mr Asquith announced his intention of moving that this vote be 
rescinded. The Speaker ruled that such a motion, although without 
precedent, was not out of order. When, however, on November 13, 
the Prime Minister rose to put his motion, the Opposition created 
such a turmoil that the Speaker was twice obliged, under Standing 
Order 21, to adjourn the House. It was in the disturbance which 
ensued that Mr Ronald McNeill seized a book from the table and 
hurled it at Mr Winston Churchill across the floor. The Speaker 
was so outraged by this scene of uproar that he threatened to resign. 

In the anxiety of the moment Mr Asquith omitted to inform the 
King of these occurences nor did the report of the Home Secretary 
make more than passing reference to the conflict that had taken 

'My dear Prime Minister, 9 the King wrote in his own hand from York 
Cottage on November 1 6, *I know how busy you are during what must 
be a most anxious time for you and your Government, but I cannot 
help feeling that it is only due to me that I should be kept informed on 
all important events which arise in Parliament and as to decisions 
come to in regard to them by the Cabinet. I must remind you that I was 
never informed by you of the defeat of the Government on Monday 


*9 12 The Sa&nov visit 

and of your consequent action, though the usual report from the 
Home Secretary was sent me. Equally, I was left uninformed by you 
of the serious and deplorable occurrences inthte House of Commons 
on Wednesday, necessitating two adjournments. ... I quite appreci- 
ate all your difficulties and sympathize \vithyou accordingly, but I do 
look to my Prime Minister for that confidence which will ensure his 
keeping me fully informed on all matters, especially those which affect 
questions of such grave importance to the State, and indeed to the 
Constitution. For my part it has been, and always will be, my earnest 
endeavour to show you that confidence \vhich a. Prime Minister has a 
right to expect from his Sovereign. 

'The Queen and I are very glad that you and Mrs Asquith are 
coining to Windsor at the end of next week.'* 

The Prime Minister replied, apologising for the oversight and 
promising that it would not occur again. But as the year 1912 drew 
to its end, the King was saddened by the new bitterness of party 
conflict and by the presage of further strife to come. 


In the autumn of 1912 the King seized a welcome opportunity 
to ease and improve the relations between Great Britain and Russia, 
which had become increasingly tense owing to a conflict of policy 
in regard to Persia. 1 The Rjussian Foreign Minister, Monsieur 
Sazonov, 2 had left St Petersburg on a tour of tlie European capitals 

1 The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1 907 hadl provided that Persia 
should be divided into three zones: A Russian zone in the north, a British 
zone in the south, and a neutral zone in the middle. The Russians, under 
the stimulus of their active Minister in Tehran, MC. Hartwig, had for long 
been violating the spirit of the agreement. In 1908 the Cossack Brigade, 
under a Russian commander, Colonel Liakoff., had bombarded the 
Persian Parliament and the Deputies had sought sanctuary in the com- 
pound of the British Legation. In 1909 Mohammed Ali Shah had been 
deposed in favour of his son Ahmed (then twelve \rears of age) and had hi 
his turn taken sanctuary in the Russian Legation before being sent into 
exile. In 1911 the ex-Shah had returned to Persia, in a Russian steamer 
but had been again forced to leave. An ex-Balliol man, Nasr-ul-Mulk was 
appointed Regent. 

2 Sazonov (Serghei Dmitrievich, 18661927) tiad served for six years 
as Counsellor of the Russian Embassy in London. In 1906 he was ap- 
pointed Minister to the Vatican and in z 909 he became assistant to the 
then Foreign Minister in St Petersburg, ML Iswolsky. In 1910 he succeeded 
M. Iswolsky as Foreign Minister. As brother-in-law to the Prime Minister, 
M. Stolypin, he was able to "exercise great influence. He was dismissed 
from his post shortly before the Revolution of 191 7 and died in France in 


The Balmoral conversations 
and the King invited him and Sir Edward Grey to come up to 
Balmoral together in order to discuss in calm and quiet the circum- 
stances which had caused this tension. M. Sazonov's arrival was 
heralded by a warm letter of recommendation which the Tsar of 
Russia addressed to the King from Beloviesk on September 14: 

'Dearest Georgie, 

*I cannot let M. Sazonov go to England without writing a few lines 
to you. I am glad you will see him. He is a straight-forward and honest 

man & I appreciate him highly I always read the Daily Graphic 

and therefore follow closely all your movements and all you have to 
do. It astonishes me often how enduring you and dear May are both!' 

Sir Edward Grey and M. Sazonov arrived at Balmoral on Sep- 
tember 23 and during the next two days they discussed the diffi- 
culties which had arisen in Persia as well as the general European 
situation. The Russian Foreign Minister said he did not wish to keep 
Russian troops in Northern Persia indefinitely, but that internal 
conditions were so chaotic that Russia must be allowed to preserve 
some sort of 'stability 9 . What Persia needed, he said, was a strong 
man. Sir Edward Grey agreed that the Regent, Nasr-ul-Mulk, was 
perhaps too weak for his position, but insisted that Great Britain 
would never agree to the return of the ex-Shah; he added that the 
continued presence of Russian troops in Northern Persia was ex- 
posing him to invidious criticism in the House of Commons and was 
much resented by Moslem opinion within the Empire. In regard to 
the European situation, he evaded M. Sazonov's hint that he would 
welcome staff conversations between British and Russian military 
and naval experts, and confined himself to saying, that if Germany 
ever sought to crush France, Great Britain would be obliged to come 
to the latter's assistance.* 

Inevitably this visit of the Russian and British Foreign Secretaries 
to Balmoral aroused much speculation in the foreign, and even in 
the British, Press. 

*Of course,' the King wrote to Queen Alexandra on September 21 and 
30, 'the newspapers are already writing all sorts of nonsense about the 
meeting. I thought it would be much easier & pleasanter if they came 
up here & talked matters over quietly. . . . The conversations were 
most satisfactory in every way & most friendly; they are both honest, 
straightforward men & at once said what they could do, & what 
they could not do. This visit will I am sure have done much to prevent 
misunderstandings. 9 

In a letter which, after M. Sazonov's departure, the King wrote 

igi2 The first Balkan War 

to the Tsar of Russia, he expressed himself as much relieved by the 
success of the Balmoral conversations : q 

C I cannot say how charmed May & I were with M. Sazonov & how 
pleased we were that he was able to spend a few days ^vith us in our 
Highland Home, & that during this rime he had opportunities for 
several long & friendly conversations with Sir Edward Grey. 

'I cordially agree with you that M. Sazonov is straight-forward & 
honest, & I am sure that he found Sir Edward Grey the same. It was 
only possible between two statesmen of such similar natures that any 
misunderstandings between our two countries could have been frankly 
discussed & cleared up. I am glad to say the results of these conversa- 
tions have been most satisfactory. 

* You know what importance I attach to the maintenance of most 
friendly & intimate relations between our two countries & I feel sure 
that you will be satisfied with the report which M. Sazonov will be 
able to make to you & that you will agree that his visit to England 
will do much to strenghten those relations, to maintain & strengthen 
which I know you are as keen about as I am. 

*You will like to hear that M. Sazonov made a most excellent 
impression upon everyone who met him. Amongst others who hap- 
pened to be here, was Mr Bonar Law, the leader of the Opposition, 
which I think was a happy coincidence; for I am glad to tell you that 
in regard to our Foreign Policy the Opposition are in full agreement 
with the Government, whose only opponents are a small & insignifi- 
cant body belonging to their own extreme left.* 

M. Sazonov, for all his frankness, did not inform Sir Edward Grey 
of the secret pact which, with Russian approval, had been concluded 
in the previous March, between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. On 
October 17, 1912, the three Balkan allies declared war upon Turkey 
and within three weeks the Turkish armies, severely defeated at 
Kirk Kiliss6 and Lul6 Bourgas, were falling back, demoralised and 
stricken with cholera, upon the inner defences of Constantinople. It 
seemed as if the Near Eastern rivalry between Austria and Russia 
(which had been much envenomed by the former's annexation of 
Bosnia-Herzogovina) must now lead to a general conflagration. Sir 
Edward Grey, with the assistance of the five Ambassadors in Lon- 
don, succeeded in averting this catastrophe. King George, in re- 
peated conversations with the Austrian Ambassador, urged him to 
persuade his Government to do nothing which might lead to an 
explosion of feeling among the Russian Pan-Slavs/ Ships of the five 
Powers were sent to the Golden Horn to protect their nationals, and 
by December a peace conference between Turkey and her enemies 
was assembled, under the auspices of the Great Powers, in St James's 


Prince Henry of Prussia 1912 

In the first week of December, Prince Henry of Prussia, the 

German Emperor's brother, paid a visit to York Cottage. The King 

informed Sir Edward Grey of the conversation that then took place:* 

'York Cottage, 
c December8, 19112 
*My dear Grey, 

Trince Henry of Prussia paid me a short visit here two days ago. 
In the course of a long conversation, he asked me point blank, whether, 
in the event of Germany and Austria going to war with Russia and 
France, England would come to the assistance of the two latter 
Powers. I answered "undoubtedly, Yes under certain circumstances". 
He expressed surprise and regret, but did not ask what the certain 
circumstances were. He said he would tell the Emperor what I had 
told him. Of course Germany must know that we would not allow 
either of our friends to be crippled. I think it is only right that you 
should know what passed between me and the Emperor's brother on 
this point. I hope to see you when I come to London at the end of this 

'Believe me, 

*Very sincerely yours, 

c GeorgeR.I.' 

In repeating this conversation to Count Mensdorff, the King 
added a few further particulars. He said that Prince Henry had 
been 'horrified 5 by the statement that we should not allow France 
or Russia to be crushed. The King had then said to his German 
cousin: 'Do you believe that we have less sense of honour than you? 
You possess signed Alliances: we unsigned Ententes. We cannot allow 
either France or Russia to be overthrown. 5 Count Mensdorff duly 
reported this conversation to Vienna.* 

On December 9, Sir Edward Grey replied to the King's letter : u 

'Sir Edward Grey presents his humble duty and begs to thank Your 
Majesty for the information respecting what has passed with Prince 
Henry of Prussia. 

'Sir Edward Grey thinks it would be dangerous & misleading to 
let the German Government be under the impression that under no 
circumstances would England come to the assistance of France and 
Russia, if Germany and Austria went to war with them, and he thinks 
it very fortunate that Your Majesty was able to give an answer to 
Prince Henry that will prevent him from giving that impression at 

'Your Majesty's Government is not committed in the event of war, 

and the public opinion of this country is, so far as Sir Edward Grey 

can judge, very adverse to a war arising out of a quarrel about Servia. 

But if Austria attacked Servia aggressively, and Germany attacked 


A misunderstanding 

Russia if she came to the assistance of Servia, and France were then 
involved, it might become necessary for England to fight (as the 
German Chancellor said that Germany would fight j for the defence 
of her position in Europe, and for the protection of her own future and 

Sir Edward Grey was optimistic in supposing that Prince Henry 
would convey, or the Emperor derive, a correct impression of the 
conversation at York Cottage. What Prince Henry in fact reported to 
his brother was that Great Britain was peace-loving, and that if war 
broke out Germany would have to reckon, 'perhaps on English 
neutrality, certainly not on her taking the part of Germany, and 
probably on her throwing her weight on the weaker side.' The 
Emperor as usual noticed only the words that he wanted to see: he 
concluded that he could count on our 'neutrality' if trouble arose. 
'Well that settles it,' he scribbled in the margin of Prince Henry's 
letter, c we can now go ahead with France.' v 

Prince Henry's own account of what he had reported to the 
Emperor is embarrassed and tangled: after his return to Germany, 
he wrote to King George as follows: 

c Kiel, December 14, 1912 
'My dear Georgie, 

'The day after my return to Kiel I wrote a letter to William in 
which I carried out your instructions to the letter, carefully hereby 
omitting the one sore point, which I put down, as my personal im- 
pressions, gathered from conversations with friends, during my recent 
stay in England, to the effect that I thought, if Germany were drawn 
into a war with Russia & may be, as a result of this, with France, 
England might be neutral, but that I feared she might also, under 
circumstances, side with our foes; William sent me a reply in which he 
said, that my impressions were, he was sorry to say, correct, in as 
much as Haldane had, in a conversation with our Ambassador, on 
the 6th of December, the day I was kindly received by you at Sand- 
ringham, stated the fact point blanc [sic] officially from the part of 
Sir E. Grey. W. further mentioned, that though this was felt as rather 
a blow, he would have to take the consequences. 

'We all feel, that England is hereby adhering to her old principle, 
not allowing any nation to predominate on the continent. You will 
I hope be aware of the fact, that the responsibility which England 
herewith takes, as regards the worlds peace is very great. 

'Germany has not, believe me, the least intention of going to war 
with any one and never had, this she has proved in more than one 
case, during 43 years! We always were & I am still in hopes that 
England & Germany might go together, for the sake of the world's 
peace! Mind you Georgie, we are not afraid, but we mean no harm to 


The Hohenzollern mind *9 12 

any one! Please consider the situation once more, before it is too late! 
If England & Germany were united, even mutually, who on earth 
would dare stir? Haldane's statement of the 6th however leaves, alas, 
no doubt & you will not be astonished if we, in future, do all we can 
to be prepared against any blow, which may, or may not be dealt, 
with an object to ruin our existence. 

'England, I take it, has got it in her hands, to keep, or to maintain 
the world's peace! 

'You will I hope understand, that my "impressions" have not 
created any bitter feelings, but that it was Haldane's statements of the 
6th which have. 

'You know me well enough by now & you know that my feelings 
on the subject are absolutely sincere. I always have & always shall 
consider it my duty to avoid misunderstandings & try & smooth 
difficulties between both our countries. Your dear Father trusted me 
& I hope you will do the same! You also know, that I am a loyal 
German subject & that my duty lies first with my sovereign, who, I 
am thankful to say, believes in me. Might I once more suggest that 
under the circumstances you should consider the question of your 
visiting Germany i.e. William first, next year? 

'Please think about it seriously it might do a world of good! 

'With many fond messages to dear Mary, please believe me always, 
dear Georgie. 

'Yr. most devoted cousin 

'Henry P.' 

The above letter is not either intelligent or important. It is 
quoted textually, since it illustrates the amazing capacity for 
incomprehension with which the Hohenzollern family, with all their 
gifts and virtues, were as a clan afflicted. Prince Henry's failure 
accurately to report the words used by King George at York Cottage, 
and the Emperor's impetuous selection of the one word he wanted, 
enable us to understand why, in far graver circumstances, a similar 
case of misreporting and misinterpretation occurred in July 1914. 



Internal affairs during 1913 The Marconi enquiry 7 Women's Suffrage 

External affairs The Balkan Wars and the Ambassadors' Con- 
ference Improvement of our relations with Germany The 
Portuguese Colonies and the Baghdad Railway The King's visit to 
Berlin The German Emperor and Lord Stamfordham The French 
President visits London Mr Walter Hines Page The Government 
discourage the King from visiting the Dominions The Home Rule 
controversy The arming of Ulster The Irish National Volunteers 

Mr Birrell's early optimism The King is advised by some 
Unionists that he ought to intervene Mr Asquith's reticence The 
audience of August 1 1 The King's memorandum Mr Asquith's 
reply The King's letter to Mr Asquith of September 22 reviewing 
the whole situation. 

THE year 1913 was almost completely overshadowed by the Irish 
question. King George was fully prepared, if such were the desire 
of the two nations, that Home Rule should be accorded to the Irish. 
He believed that, if the problem were handled with tact and gener- 
osity, Ireland would become a friendly and contented Dominion, co- 
operating with other Dominions in joint allegiance to the Crown. 
What he dreaded was that the tension between the Roman Catholics 
and the Protestants in Ireland (reflected as it was in the increasing 
party strife between Unionists and Liberals in the House of Com- 
mons) might cause lasting damage to our Parliamentary tradition, 
involve the Crown in an odious constitutional dilemma and, at a 
time of serious international disorder, weaken the country by 
internal dissension and even expose it to the disaster of civil war. 

Before considering the stages through which the Irish contro- 
versy passed during the year 1913, and the distracting constitutional 
riddle which it created, it will be convenient to deal with the 
internal and external events which occurred during the interlude 
between the Agadir crisis and the First World War. At home, we had 
what was somewhat unfairly described as the 'Marconi Scandal', and 
the grave administrative perplexities caused by the methods adopted 
by the more extreme agitators for Women's Suffrage. Abroad, the 


The Marconi enquiry 1913 

year was marked by Sir Edward Grey's calm handling of the Balkan 
agitation and by a definite improvement in our relations with 
Germany. Whereas our domestic politics, during the year 1913, were 
riven by excited animosity, in foreign affairs the Great Powers 
temporarily recreated the Concert of Europe and enjoyed a delusive 
lull before the storm. 

The Imperial Conference which had met in 1911 had recom- 
mended the construction of a chain of wireless stations within the 
Empire. In 1912 Mr Herbert Samuel, then Postmaster-General, 
accepted the tender put forward by the Marconi Company, subject 
to ratification by Parliament. The shares of the Marconi Company, 
which in July 1911, were at 463. had risen by April 1912, to eight 
pounds. The Managing Director of the Marconi Company was 
Mr Godfrey Isaacs, brother of the Attorney-General, Sir Rufus Isaacs. 
During the summer recess of 1912 rumours began to circulate that 
certain members of the Government had speculated in Marconi 
Shares. On October n, 1912, Mr George Lansbury, in the House of 
Commons, hinted that certain Ministers had used their previous 
knowledge of the Government's intentions to indulge in 'disgraceful, 
scandalous, gambling in these shares'. Sir Rufus Isaacs, speaking 
from the front bench, denied having 'had one single transaction with 
the shares of that Company'. The Government then appointed a 
Select Committee to enquire into the tender in its technical aspects 
and at the same time to investigate the allegations that had been 

On April 4, 1913, Mr Asquith had an audience with the King and 
informed him that, in the previous January, Lord Murray of Eli- 
bank, Sir Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George had confessed to him 
that, although they had had no dealings in the shares of the British 
Marconi Company, they had in fact bought some shares in its 
American counterpart. Realising that these facts would now be 
disclosed, they feared that they might be placed in 'a terribly 
awkward position 3 and offered their resignations. Mr Asquith 
loyally refused to accept their resignations but stated that he con- 
sidered their conduct 'lamentable' in itself and c so difficult to 

The truth came out when Sir Rufus Isaacs, together with Mr 
Herbert Samuel (who was wholly ignorant of the transactions of his 
colleagues) brought a libel action against the Matin newspaper. Sir 
Rufus Isaacs on that occasion admitted that he and two of his friends 
had dealt in the shares of the American Marconi Company. The 


Mrs Pankhurst 

Select Committee, in their report of June 13, exonerated the 
Ministers from all charges of corruption. In a minority report, how- 
ever, Lord Robert Cecil accused them of having committed a 'grave 
impropriety 3 and of having c been wanting in frankness and respect 
for the House of Commons'. In the debate that followed Mr Asquith 
contended that his colleagues had not departed from 'rules of 
obligation', although they had certainly departed from 'rules of 
prudence'. The House then passed a resolution clearing the Ministers 
of the charge of corruption and accepting their expressions of regret. 
Mr Lloyd George, for one, recovered rapidly from this unpleasant 
episode. Within a few weeks he was representing himself as a 
St Sebastian, plucking the arrows from his quivering flesh and hurl- 
ing them back at his persecutors. A month later he was contending 
that the whole Marconi scandal had been nothing more than an 
attempt on the part of the Conservatives to c upset democratic 
Government'. He entirely failed thereafter to recalLthat it was the 
magnanimity of Mr Asquith which had saved him from disgrace. 

The methods of violence which, under the leadership of Mrs 
Pankhurst (and much to the distress of the more constitutional 
advocates of the extended franchise), had since 1906 been pursued 
by the Women's Social and Political Union were less amenable either 
to Parliamentary equivocation or to administrative routine. On 
January 23, 1913, the Franchise and Registration Bill was intro- 
duced into the House of Commons. Mr Asquith had made it known 
that the Government would accept amendments extending the 
suffrage, at least to women householders of over twenty-five years of 
age. Before, however, these amendments could be put, it was 
necessary to introduce a covering amendment, deleting the word 
'male' wherever it occurred in the text of the Bill. This preliminary 
amendment was moved by Sir Edward Grey himself, but was ruled 
out of order by the Speaker as altering the whole nature of the Bill. 
Mrs Pankhurst and her followers were impatient of these points of 
Parliamentary procedure; they concluded that Mr Asquith had 
escaped, whether from cunning or stupidity, from his own assur- 
ances; the ardour of their militancy was much inflamed. The King 
was apprehensive regarding the fate of our national works of art and 
enquired of the Home Secretary whether he was satisfied that the 
public galleries and museums could safely remain open: Mr. 
McKenna replied, optimistically perhaps, that there was no cause 
for alarm.* Meanwhile, many of the women who had been cast into 
prison on various charges of assault and damage had resorted to a 


Forcible feeding 19*3 

hunger strike. The Home Secretary, in desperation, drafted his 
'Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Jlealth) Bill 1913', subse- 
quently known as the 'Cat and Mouse Act'* The King had been 
disgusted by the accounts he had read of the methods of forcible 
feeding which were applied to these devoted captives by the prison 
authorities. On March 27 Lord Stamfordham was instructed to 
approach the Home Secretary: 

'The King desires me to write to you upon the question of "forcible 
feeding". His Majesty cannot help feeling that there is something 
shocking, if not almost cruel, in the operation to which these insensate 
women are subjected through their refusal to take necessary nourish- 
ment. His Majesty concludes that Miss Pankhurst's description of 
what she endured when forcibly fed is more or less true. If so, her 
story will horrify people otherwise not in sympathy with the Militant 
Suffragettes. The King asks whether, in your "Temporary Discharge 
of Prisons Bill" it would not be possible to abolish forcible feeding.' 6 

Mr McKenna replied that the system was as repugnant to the prison 
authorities as it was to the King himself and that he hoped that, 
under the new Act, it would be possible to restrict forcible feeding 
to a few exceptional cases. 

The King's sympathy for Mrs Pankhurst and her followers was 
not increased by the constant demonstrations, scenes and even 
outrages to which, when he appeared on public occasions, he was 
constantly exposed. 


The Balkan Wars 1 confronted Europe with a situation of great 
peril. Within a few violent weeks the Turkish armies had been driven 

1 There were two Balkan Wars: 

1 i ) The first was fought between Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Monte- 
negro on the one side, and Turkey on the other. It lasted from October 1 7, 
1912, to May 30, 1913. The Greeks captured Salonika on November 9, 
1912, Adrianople surrendered after a long siege on March 26, 1913, and 
the Montenegrins entered Scutari on April 22. Peace between Turkey 
and the four Balkan allies was signed in London on May 30, 1913. 

(2) The second Balkan War was provoked by King Ferdinand of 
Bulgaria, who felt that he had been accorded an insufficient share of the 
spoils. Ota. June 30 he suddenly attacked the Greek and Serbian armies. 
Profiting by the confusion, Turkey again entered the fray and recaptured 
Adrianople. When it was quite certain that the Bulgarians would be beaten 
the Rinna.nians also joined in the battle. By July 31 King Ferdinand was 
obliged to sue for peace and a final treaty was signed at Bucharest on 
August 10, 1913. 


igi3 The Ambassadors* Conference 

back to the inner defences of Constantinople and the Sultan had lost 
Macedonia, Albania, Epirus and Western Thrace. On November 9, 
1912, when the Bulgarian batteries at Chatalja were already rattling 
the windows of the Turkish capital, the King addressed to Mr 
Asquith a telegram of sympathetic counsel: 

6 I feel for you having to speak on Foreign Affairs at the Guildhall this 
evening, but know that in this critical situation you will be careful not 
to commit England in any way. I am sure that the less said the better. 
If we can induce Russia and Austria to continue to work together, the 
demands of the Balkan States, which naturally perhaps are somewhat 
exaggerated, may be kept within reasonable bounds. I hope Russia 
and France realize that in these delicate negotiations we wish to 
preserve our present cordial relations with them, the maintenance of 
which seems to me of supreme importance.' tf 

In the months that followed, two separate conferences took place 
in London. The first was a direct discussion between Turkey and 
the four victorious Balkan States. After a temporary interruption, 
occasioned by a revolution in Turkey, articles of peace were signed 
at St James's Palace on May 30, 1913. The second conference, 
which was known as the 'Ambassadors' Conference*, took place in 
Sir Edward Grey's room at the Foreign Office and was composed, 
under the chairmanship of the British Foreign Secretary, of the 
Ambassadors in London of France, Italy, Germany, Austria and 
Russia. These meetings, which were informal and intermittent, 
lasted from December 1912, until August 1913. The details', Sir 
Edward Grey wrote in after years,* e with which we dealt were 
insignificant in themselves mere sparks: but we were sitting on a 
powder magazine.* The Ambassadors* Conference did in fact 
represent, during those dangerous nine months, the wisdom and the 
authority of the Concert of Europe. It was a lasting regret to Sir 
Edward Grey that the same Conference could not be revived in 
July 1914, to deal with an even graver predicament He had come to 
set great store by the 'good faith, the good will, the singlemindedness, 
the freedom from all egotism and personal rivalries, which had 
during those months been manifested by those five elderly and 
moderate men'/ 

The main point of friction was not, as some had feared, the 
future of Constantinople and the Straits, nor even the Bulgarian 
access to the Aegean, but the northern and southern frontiers of the 
new State of Albania. In the south, Italy wished to prevent Greece 
from obtaining the territory in Epirus which would have given her 


Sir E. Grefs achievement 

command of the Corfu Channel. This frontier remains, essentially, 
undetermined to this day. In the north, the Austrians refused to 
allow Serbia and Montenegro to retain the areas they had con- 
quered; it was feared that, if Russia backed their claims, a serious 
clash of interests and prestige might result. The Albanian problem 
was further complicated by the occupation of Scutari by Monte- 
negro in April 1913. The Powers summoned King Nikita to evacuate 
the city and the Austrian Government threatened that, if the Con- 
ference of Ambassadors failed to secure his consent, they would be 
obliged to settle the matter on their own. King George spoke strongly 
to Count MensdorfF, urging him to warn his Government that if they 
took isolated action it might lead to an explosion of Pan-Slav feeling 
in Russia and create a danger of war. 5 It was then suggested that 
the Powers should themselves send troops to Scutari and turn King 
Nikita out. King George remarked that he was not going to allow 
the lives of British soldiers to be risked for so trivial a venture. The 
German Emperor, on being informed of this objection, scribbled the 
marginal comment: 'Seine Majestat is kein Militar 9 'The King does not 
possess a military mind 9 a remark which was more accurate than 
many of his impulsive apophthegms/ In the end King Nikita was 
forced to evacuate Scutari under the threat of an international naval 

Such were the difficulties and dangers which during those 
months of 1913 Sir Edward Grey, with the assistance of the five 
Ambassadors, managed to solve and avert. The King was warmly 
appreciative of his success. c My dear Grey/ he wrote to him on 
August 18, 1913:* 

'Now that the Conference of Ambassadors is adjourned and its Mem- 
bers have separated for their well-earned holiday, I wish to offer you 
my sincere congratulations upon the satisfactory results achieved, and 
to express my high appreciation of the able manner in which you have 
presided over the Conference, and steered its course through the many 
rocks and shoals among which it might have been at any time wrecked. 
You have by your patience, tact and statesmanship, secured Peace, 
and gained die confidence of all the European Powers while inspiring 
a similar confidence in the Parliamentary Opposition in this Country. 
'I heartily share these feelings of absolute reliance in your manage- 
ment of our Foreign Policy, and join in the sentiments of gratitude so 
generally expressed towards you by your fellow-countrymen.' 

It is doubtful whether this distribution of the European provinces 
of the Ottoman Empire would have been completed without major 
disturbance had not the relations between Germany and England 

1913 Portuguese Colonies 

then entered upon a calmer and more reasonable phase. Although 
the German Government failed to respond to Mr Churchill's 
repeated suggestions for a 'naval holiday', they had come to realise 
that no British Government could afford to allow German naval 
construction seriously to challenge our island security and that a 
succession of sharp lunges against the fabric of the Triple Entente 
only served to solidify its structure. The two Governments therefore, 
during the course of 1913, settled down to a realistic business deal. 
The British Cabinet, with vicarious generosity, offered the Germans 
a share in the reversion of the Portuguese colonies. A Treaty to that 
effect was initialled by Sir Edward Grey and Prince Lichnowsky in 
August 1913, but its conclusion was postponed, owing to the fact that 
Sir Edward Grey insisted that both the Treaty itself and its secret 
predecessors should be laid before Parliament. This seemed to the 
Germans a fantastic qualm. 1 

The British Government at the same time opened direct negotia- 
tions with Germany and Turkey in regard to the Baghdad Railway. 2 
We agreed to the railway being carried as far as Basrah (which 
implied that the whole of Mesopotamia would become a German 
sphere of influence) but insisted that we should preserve our existing 
rights and privileges in the Persian Gulf.and on the Shatt-el-Arab. 
A Convention embodying the results of this negotiation was initialled 
on June 15, 1914. The King viewed these railway schemes with some 

1 Under this Treaty Germany was to obtain Angola, the northern 
part of Mozambique and the islands of St. Thome and Principe. In 1898 
Mr Balfour had entered into a Secret Treaty with Count Hatzfeldt, pro- 
viding for British and German 'spheres of economic influence' in Portugal's 
African colonies. The Marquis de Soveral got wind of this deal and 
secured, in 1899, what was known as "The Treaty of Windsor', by which 
Great Britain reaffirmed her obligations under the alliance with Portugal 
which had existed since the fifteenth century. Sir Edward Grey, with a 
certain ingenuousness, suggested that all three Treaties should be pub- 
lished at the same time. 

2 In 1902 the German Government had obtained from the Sultan of 
Turkey a concession for constructing a railway to Baghdad. This was 
opposed by Russia, France and Grdat Britain who insisted that the matter 
was one which affected the interests of all four Powers. In 191 1, under the 
Potsdam Agreement, the Russians made a direct deal with Germany, 
approving of the railway being continued to Baghdad and even agreeing 
that a branch line could be constructed from Baghdad to the Persian 
frontier at Khanikin, where it could eventually link up with the lines 
which Russia intended to construct in northern Persia. We were much 
disturbed by this agreement. 

The King lisits Berlin 1913 

apprehension. What most alarmed him was the promise made by 
Russia, under the Potsdam Agreement, that the German-controlled 
Baghdad Railway might one day link up at Khanikin^ with the 
Russian-controlled trans-Persian line. He feared that the Germans, 
with their greater efficiency, might eventually dominate the whole 
enormous network and provide themselves with a through line from 
Berlin (via Constantinople, Baghdad, Khanikin and Persia) to the 
Indian frontier. He urged the Russians to retain the Persian section 
of the railway entirely in their own hands. 'The control of Russia 5 , he 
said to Count Benckendorff,' 'would be a security for England: that 
of Germany, a danger/ These huge railway schemes, with all the 
benefits and the dangers they implied, were whirled into dust by the 
hurricane of the 1914 war. 

The improvement in the relations between Great Britain and 
Germany was emphasised by the visit which the King and Queen 
paid to Berlin in May 1913. The occasion was the marriage of the 
Emperor's only daughter, Princess Luise of Prussia, to Duke Ernst 
August of Brunswick-Ltineburg; an event which put an end to the 
long-standing enmity between the Houses of Hohenzollern and 
Brunswick. The Tsar of Russia was also invited to be present. Sir 
Edward Grey insisted that the meeting should be regarded c as a 
purely family affair', and the King went to Berlin unaccompanied 
by any Minister.* He was glad indeed to have this private occasion 
to renew his old affectionate relations with his Russian cousin: 'Had 
a long & satisfactory talk with dear Nicky; he was just the same as 
always.* The German Emperor could not refrain from discussing 
high politics with his fellow potentates; he claimed thereafter that 
he had obtained from the Tsar of Russia and the King of England an 
assurance that their Governments would respect the integrity of 
what remained of the Ottoman Empire and that Constantinople 
should rest in the possession of the Sultan. 1 To Lord Stamfordham 
he delivered a long lecture upon the folly of the British Government 
in siding with the Latins against the Teutons; in imagining that he, 
the grandson of Queen Victoria, would ever allow England to be 
threatened at sea; and in obstinately ignoring the Yellow Peril which 
remained the only real menace to Western civilization: 

'Look at this Morocco business! 9 the Emperor exclaimed. 'I know 
that Sir John French was over in France, or your staff officers were, 
and you promised to send 100,000 troops and that's what made us sore.* 

1 The German Government were of course aware that ever since 1904- 
1905 Staff Conversations had been proceeding between British and French 

French President's visit to London 

I am a man of peace, but now I have to arm my Country, so that 
whoever falls on me I can crush. And crush them I will. If Austria is 
attacked by Russia I am bound to help her; the aged Emperor, with 
his past defeats, sorrows etc., could not be left to stand alone. There is 
no ill feeling between Russia and Germany. You talk a good deal 
about the balance of power and that to maintain it you joined the 
Entente. But Germany holds the balance of power. 5 " 1 

When accepting the German Emperor's invitation to his 
daughter's wedding, the King had been careful, in order that no 
uneasiness might be caused, to intimate to M. Cambon that he 
would welcome a visit from the President of the French Republic in 
the following month. Monsieur Poincar6 arrived in London on 
June 24. It was the first time that he had seen King George: 

6 I was immediately struck*, he wrote, 1 * e by his resemblance to his 
cousin, the Tsar of Russia. Yet his colour was not so pale, his expression 
less dreamy, his smile less melancholy & his gestures less timid.* 

The State visit of the French President, although it led to no new 
political transactions, did much to alleviate the suspicions which had 
been aroused in France by our negotiations with Germany over the 
Baghdad Railway and the Portuguese colonies and by the recent 
meeting of the King and the two Emperors in Berlin. 

On May 30, two days after the King's return from Germany, the 
new United States Ambassador, Mr Walter Hines Page, presented 
his letters. 1 From the first moment of their acquaintance, feelings 

experts. In fact, Mr Haldane had so informed the German Military 
Attach^ at the time. The more pacific members of the British Cabinet, 
when they were eventually informed of these conversations, expressed 
alarm that they might commit the Government in the event of war. 
Accordingly, in October 1912, Sir Edward Grey and M. Cambon ex- 
changed letters affirming that these conversations did not in any way com- 
mit their respective Governments, who would, if any danger arose of an 
unprovoked attack, discuss together whether they should take joint action 
to preserve peace. In these discussions the plans agreed to by the two 
General Staffs would c at once be taken into consideration'. The Grey- 
Cambon letters became known to the German Government in March 

1 Mr Walter Hines Page (1855-1919) was a native of North Carolina, 
a good classical scholar, a man of firm republican convictions, fine human 
sympathies, and acute if unconventional intelligence. He had been editor 
of the Atlantic Monthly and in 1899 had founded with his great friend 
Frank N. Doubleday the famous publishing firm of Doubleday, Page Inc. 
He was a strong supporter of President Wilson and also possessed the 
confidence of Colonel House. 


Relations with America 1913 

of warm regard and confidence were established between these two 
men, who possessed many qualities in common. Relations between 
Great Britain and the United States were at the time somewhat 
strained owing to differences of policy in regard to Mexico and the 
Panama Canal tolls. 1 Profiting from the personal influence which 
he possessed with the President and Colonel House, and using the 
great authority which he immediately acquired with Sir Edward 
Grey and the Cabinet, Mr Page was able to remove these causes of 
friction. He was, as events proved, a firm believer in co-operation 
between the two English-speaking peoples, who between them could 
maintain the peace of the world* 'What I want,' he said, 6 is to have 
the President of the United States and the King of England stand 
up side by side and let the world take a good look at them.' Mr Page 
did not live to witness the consummation of this desire. 

The King meanwhile had not abandoned his original intention 
of paying a personal visit to each one of the Dominions. He had 
been anxious, at the end of 1912, to accept General Botha's invita- 
tion that he should come out to South Africa and open the new 
Parliament buildings. The Cabinet firmly discouraged such a pro- 
posal. His acceptance, they said, would lead to similar invitations 
from other Dominions and would thus e entail the prolonged absence 
of the Head of the State from the United Kingdom'. His presence 
in England during those last two years before the war was in truth 
an inescapable necessity. 


The Irish conflict of 1913 opened with rapid and almost per- 
functory moves, as in a game of draughts. On January i Sir Edward 
Carson proposed an amendment excluding the province of Ulster 
from the operation of the Home Rule Bill. Mr Redmond denounced 
this proposal with the phrase: 'Ireland is for us one entity. It is one 
land.* Sir Edward Carson's amendment was defeated by ninety- 

1 In February 1913 Victoriano Huerta proclaimed himself President 
of Mexico. He was supported by local British Oil interests but President 
Wilson denounced him as a usurper and refused to accord recognition. 
In the end, after the Americans had been obliged to occupy Veracruz, he 
resigned (July 14, 1914) and was eventually succeeded by Carranza. 

Under the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 the United States had 
agreed that there should be no discrimination against foreign vessels using 
the Panama Canal. Thereafter preferential charges were accorded to 
American coastal shipping. The British Government protested and, on 
March 5, 1914, President Wilson informed Congress that these preferences 

1913 The Ulster Volunteers 

seven votes. On January 16 the third reading of the Bill was passed 
by the House of Commons by a majority of one hundred and ten. 
On January 30, the Bill, as had been foreseen, -was rejected by the 
House of Lords. This meant that the Bill would return to the House 
of Commons, pass through all its stages again, and eventually be 
forced through both Houses by the operation of the Parliament Act. 
It was thus bound to become law by the summer of 1914. On March 
12, in the debate on the Address, the Opposition brought forward 
an amendment to the effect that it would be improper to proceed 
with the Home Rule Bill c while the constitution of Parliament is 
still incomplete and without reference to the electors'. Mr Asquith 
replied with bland optimism that c the reform of the Second Chamber 
will not now be long delayed*. 1 Mr Bonar Law contended that a law 
passed under such conditions c could not, and ought not to, command 
respect and obedience*. The problem remained in a condition of 
suspended acrimony. 

In the apparent interlude that followed, both sides mustered 
their forces, chose their positions, and prepared for the coming 
battle. The bitterness engendered was such that, for the first time 
since the Reform Bills, members of the opposing parties refused to 
meet each other socially. "Somehow*, remarked the United States 
Ambassador, c it reminds me of the tense days of the slavery contro- 
versy, just before the Civil War.'* 

The Ulster Protestants began immediately to enrol and drill. On 
the recommendation of Lord Roberts, they appointed a retired army 
officer, General Sir George Richardson, as their Commander-in- 
Chief. By September 1913 as many as 56,000 men had been enrolled: 
in the following March the total strength of the Ulster Volunteer 
Force was estimated at 84,000.* By the end of 1913, the Irish 

were a 'dishonourable* breach of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty and must 
be rescinded. This courageous action on the part of the President made a 
profound impression abroad. 

1 In 1917 a Committee was appointed under Lord Bryce to consider 
the constitution of a revised Second Chamber. It recommended that 246 
members of the new Chamber should be elected by the House of Com- 
mons and that a quarter of the new Chamber should be chosen by a Joint 
Committee of the two Houses from existing hereditary peers. This new 
Chamber was to be accorded no powers beyond a minimum delaying 
power and foil rights of discussion. These recommendations were not 
carried out, since it was felt that no Second Chamber, however carefully 
devised, would prove either as vulnerable and therefore as unassertive as a 
hereditary Chamber, or more honourable, experienced and intelligent 
than the existing House of Lords. 


The King and Mr Birrell 79/3 

Catholics decided to create a force of their own. At a meeting held 
in the Rotunda at Dublin on November 25, the National Volunteers 
were inaugurated and 4,000 men at once enrolled. The Labour 
leader, Mr James Larkin, at the same time started to organise his 
'Irish Citizen Army 3 ; for the purpose of training these irregulars he 
secured the more expert assistance of an Ulster Protestant, Captain 
J. R. White. 1 

For a while Mr Asquith and his colleagues strove to persuade 
themselves and others that the menace of armed conflict was a 
gigantic bluff on the part of the Unionist Opposition. On July 24, 
Mr Augustine Birrell, the Irish Secretary, had an audience with the 
King at Buckingham Palace. The substance of their conversation 
was recorded by Lord Stamfordham: r 

'The King saw Mr Birrell and the position of affairs in Ireland was 
discussed for an hour. The latter declared the situation to be artificial 
and discounted the seriousness of the state of things in Ulster as being 
due to Carson, who had lost his head not an Orangeman, a Dublin 
man. As to fighting, there would be no one to fight. A "Provisional 
Government" would not last a week, as the whole country so governed 
would be cut off from the outside world. ... If only the Opposition 
would come to Parliament and table a scheme for Ulster "contracting 
out" of the Bill, say for ten years, at the expiration of which a 
referendum might be taken as to whether they should come under 

Home Rule or not he would accept it The King replied "But 

Mr Redmond would never agree to this plan". Mr Birrell answered 
"He would have to agree!" "But he would turn you out" "Let 
him si d d good thing if he did!" 

c "But", Mr Birrell continued, "the Opposition won't do this, 
because they are hoping something will turn up that either Heaven, 
the King, or some other agency, will bring about a General Election 
and the Government will be beaten and Home Rule shelved." 

'The King pointed out that apparently the Government were 
"drifting" and that with this "drift" his own position was becoming 
more and more difficult. This Mr Birrell admitted, but said that it was 
for the Opposition to move. 9 2 

1 James Larkin was a Liverpool boy with a long pale face and great 
powers of mass excitation. On October 27, 1913, he was sentenced to 
seven months* imprisonment for sedition but was released on November 1 3 . 
He was secretary of the Irish Transport Workers Union and disguised his 
revolutionary campaign under the title 'The fiery Gross'. Captain White 
was the son of Field-Marshal Sir George White, the defender of Lady- 
smith (see his autobiography Misfit}. 

8 It is only fair to Mr Birrell to record that within a few weeks of this 
conversation he modified his view that the Ulster situation was 'artificial*. 
In the first week of September he wrote to Lord Stamfordham: 'That there 

*9 1 3 Anonymous letto 

Mr Birrell was not mistaken in believing that some of th 
more ardent members of the Opposition hoped to secure th 
King's intervention. They contended that, since the Gonstitu 
tion was in suspense, the Government had no right, without , 
specific mandate from the people, to introduce organic changes int 
the structure of the realm. They hoped that the King would insis 
upon a dissolution, that Mr Asquith would resign his office and tha 
Mr Bonar Law would then be able to form an alternative Govern 
ment and go to the country on the issue of Home Rule versus thi 
rights and liberties of Protestant Ulster. They were convinced that 
in that event, the electors would return them to power with a sub 
stantial majority. 

The elder statesmen were not either unanimous or convincing 
Lord Lansdowne and Mr Bonar Law were of opinion that the Kinj 
would do right in insisting that the people should first be given ar 
opportunity to express their own views on the Home Rule policy o 
the Government/ Lord Loreburn, Lord Gromer and Lord Roseberj 
considered that it would be unwise for the King to refuse to follov 
the advice of the Government in power, but that he should infonr 
them in writing that he assented against his personal judgment 
since he feared that their policy would lead to civil war. Meanwhile 
the King's peace of mind was disturbed by the flood of private, and 
often anonymous, letters which poured into Buckingham Palace, 
Correspondents from Ulster assured him that the workers and 
peasants in the four counties looked upon him as their sole guardian 
and protector. 'Surely,' the cry went up, 'the King is not going tc 
hand us over to the Pope?' Lord Stamfordham was frequently 
troubled by the effect which these passionate letters produced upon 
the King's sentiments and sympathies. Tray, Sir!' he had written to 
him when momentarily absent, c do not give a thought to the 
irresponsible, and as a rule anonymous, letterwriters who dare to 
address their cowardly and insulting words to you.'* But the King 
was troubled none the less. 

The strange thing was that, although so many Peers, Privy 
Councillors and commoners thought it right to obtrude upon the 
King their advice, their exhortations and their reproaches, the one 
man who, during those spring and summer months of 1913, had 
never even alluded to the subject was the Prime Minister himself. 

is great perturbation is certain; and the notion that it is all bluff may be dis- 
missed. Personally, I cannot bring myself to believe in civil war, even in 
its mildest terms' (R,A. ^2553. II. 5). 


The devolution idea 
Nfr Asquith believed in the strict avoidance of all evitable pain: he 
allowed sleeping scorpions to lie. By the end of July, however, the 
King had come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister's reticence 
might, if prolonged indefinitely, end by landing everybody concerned 
in false positions. He therefore summoned Mr Asquith to an audience 
in London on August 1 1. During the week preceding this interview, 
the King was down at Cowes and, while his beloved Britannia seethed 
past the familiar buoys and landmarks of the Solent, he considered 
carefully what he should say to Mr Asquith and what his own atti- 
tude ought, in duty, to be. In principle, he agreed with the argument 
that there ought to be a General Election before the Home Rule Bill, 
with its attendant menace of civil strife, became the law of the land. 
In practice, he foresaw that Mr Asquith would not agree to a dis- 
solution, that he would tender the resignation of his Government 
and that at the ensuing Election many Liberal candidates would seek 
to divert attention from the threatened coercion of Ulster by accus- 
ing the Crown of interference in party issues. Moreover, he had no 
personal desire at all to see Mr Bonar Law succeed Mr Asquith, for 
whom he had acquired (and for ever retained) feelings of warm 
affection* The only possible solution, he felt, was an agreed settle- 
ment between the leaders of the two parties; that settlement might 
be furthered by taking up the idea of general 'devolution 9 (as spon- 
sored by Lord Dunraven and others) under which some form of 
local autonomy would be granted, not to Southern Ireland only, 
not only to Ulster, but also to Scotland and Wales.* 1 

With this in mind he drafted a memorandum in his own hand- 
writing which, at the audience of August 1 1, he handed to the Prime 
Minister. This memorandum must be quoted in its entirety : v 

1 The Devolution idea expanded into a scheme for a federal solution 
of the whole problem. The proposal was that there should be one Imperial 
Parliament at Westminster and one Imperial Executive. Subject to 
them would be (a) an English Parliament and Executive, (b) a Scottish 
Parliament and Executive, (c) an Irish Parliament and Executive, (d) a 
Welsh Parliament and Executive, and, if necessary, (e) an Ulster Parlia- 
ment and Executive. Tour or five Parliaments', wrote Austen Cham- 
berlain to Lord Lansdowne on November 2, 1913, c may be a nuisance 
but can hardly be a serious danger to Westminster sovereignty. One 
Parliament might claim equality: five could not' (Politics from Inside, 


The ingenious device for hamstringing the Dublin Parliament came to 
nothing, since Mr Asquith rightly insisted that Irish Home Rule was an 
urgent matter, whereas the other autonomies could wait. 

igi3 The King's memorandum 

'August 1 1, 1913. 

'Although I have not spoken to you before on the subject, I have been 
for some time very anxious about the Irish Home Rule Bill, and especi- 
ally with regard to Ulster. 

The speeches not only of people like Sir Edward Carson, but of the 
Unionist Leaders, and of ex-Cabinet Ministers; the stated intention 
of setting up a provisional Government in Ulster directly the Home 
Rule Bill is passed; the reports of Military preparations, Army drill- 
ing etc.; of assistance from England, Scotland and the Colonies; of 
the intended resignation of their Commissions by Army Officers; all 
point toward rebellion if not Civil War; and, if so, to certain blood- 

'Meanwhile, there are rumours of probable agitation in the country; 
of monster petitions; Addresses from the House of Lords; from Privy 
Councillors; urging me to use my influence to avert the catastrophe 
which threatens Ireland. 

'Such vigorous action taken, or likely to be taken, will place me in 
a very embarrassing position in the centre of the conflicting parties 
backed by their respective Press. 

'Whatever I do I shall offend half the population. 

'One alternative would certainly result in alienating the Ulster 
Protestants from me, and whatever happens the result must be detri- 
mental to me personally and to the Crown in general. 

'No Sovereign has ever been in such a position, and this pressure is 
sure to increase during the next few months. 

'In this period I shall have a right to expect the greatest confidence 
and support from my Ministers, and, above all, from my Prime 

'I cannot help feeling that the Government is drifting and taking 
me with it. 

'Before the gravity of the situation increases I should like to know 
how you view the present state of affairs, and what you imagine will 
be the outcome of it. 

'On the 24th July I saw Mr Birrell, who admitted the seriousness 
of the outlook. 

'He seemed to think that perhaps an arrangement could be made 
for Ulster to "contract out" of the Home Rule scheme, say for 10 
years, with the right to come under the Irish Parliament, if so desired, 
after a referendum by her people, at the end of that period. But it was 
for the Opposition to come forward with some practical proposal to 
this effect. 

'Is there any chance of a settlement by consent as suggested by 
Lord Loreburn, Lord Macdonnell, Lord Dunraven, Mr W. O'Brien, 
Mr Birrell, Lord Lansdowne, Mr Bonar Law and others? 

'Would it be possible to have a Conference in which all parties 
should take part, to consider the whole policy of devolution, of which 
you, in introducing the Home Rule Bill in April 1912, said "Irish 
Home Rule is only the first step"? 


Mr AsquitKs reply 

'Would it not be better to try to settle measures involving great 
changes in the Constitution, such as Home Rule all round, Reform 
of the House of Lords etc., not on Party lines, but by agreement?' 

On being handed this paper on August 1 i, Mr Asquith asked if 
he might take it away with him and furnish a considered reply. He 
did not agree that the Grown need be placed in a difficult position; 
so long as the King acted constitutionally, his position was un- 
assailable. If he considered that the action which his Ministers 
advised would prove detrimental to the Country, it was his duty to 
'warn 9 them, if necessary in writing, and thereafter the sole responsi- 
bility would rest with them. Meanwhile he signified that he was 
perfectly willing to consider any practical scheme which would 
enable Ulster to 'contract out 5 of the Home Rule Bill; and that, 
although he was not in favour of an actual conference between the 
several leaders, he was prepared to encourage a settlement by 

consent 1 " 

Mr Asquith's 'considered reply' to the King's memorandum took 
the form of two separate documents, the first dealing with the 
constitutional issues involved and the second with the Irish problem 

In the first paper the Prime Minister recalled that the veto of 
the Crown had not been exercised for two hundred years and that 
the principle had since become firmly established that the occupant 
of the Throne must, in the last resort, act upon the advice of his 
Ministers. This admirable principle had secured that the Sovereign 
was removed 'from the storms and vicissitudes of party polities' and 
that the impersonal status of the Crown rendered it 'an invaluable 
safeguard for the continuity of our national life'. Whatever the 
Unionists and a few constitutional lawyers might assert, the Parlia- 
ment Act 'was not intended in any way to affect and, it is submitted, 
has not afiected, the Constitutional position of the Sovereign'. Un- 
doubtedly the King possessed the right to dismiss his Ministers, even 
when they held a majority in the House of Commons, but that right 
had not been exercised since the days of William IV, whose action 
at the time of the Reform Bills did not constitute an auspicious 
precedent. If the King were, in present conditions, to dismiss a 
Government which retained the confidence of the House of Com- 
mons he might render the Crown 'the football of contending factions'. 
'This*, concluded Mr Asquith, 'is a constitutional catastrophe which 
it is the duty of every wise statesman to do the utmost in his power to 


The King's appeal to Mr Asquith 

In his second paper, which dealt specifically with the Irish prob- 
lem, the Prime Minister stated that, although there was serious 
danger of 'organised disorder* in Ulster, he did not believe that it 
would attain the dimensions of civil war. To hold a General Election 
before the Home Rule Bill became law would, not only stultify the 
whole purpose of the Parliament Act, but would also, supposing that 
the electors decided against Home Rule, face the new Government 
with the equal problem of armed risings among the Catholics of 
Southern Ireland. An Election held after the Bill became law would 
be an entirely different matter: it would then be open to the new 
Parliament to consider whether to approve, repeal, or amend the 
Home Rule Act. He was not in principle opposed to a conference 
between the leaders of the several parties, including Sir Edward Gar- 
son and Mr Redmond, but he feared that there existed an 'un- 
bridgeable chasm of principle' between the two sides which would 
render it difficult, except in so far as minor adjustments were con- 
cerned, to find a basis 'upon and from which the deliberations of any 
conference could proceed'.* 

The King replied to the Prime Minister's two papers in a private 
letter, dated from Balmoral on September 22, 1913.* This letter is so 
important as an illustration of King George's conception of the duty 
of a Sovereign to 'advise, to encourage, and to warn', that, in spite 
of its length, it must be reproduced: 

Balmoral Castle, 

asnd September, 1913. 
My dear Prime Minister, 

I am most grateful to you for your very dear and well reasoned 
Memorandum which you have been good enough to draw up for me 
on the Government of Ireland Bill. 

Acting upon your own suggestions that I should freely and unre- 
servedly offer my criticisms, I do so upon quotations taken from it. 

Referring to the Constitutional position of the Sovereign, you say 
'in the end the Sovereign always acts upon the advice which Ministers 
feel it their duty to offer . . . and his subjects cannot hold him in any 
way accountable 9 . 

Fully accepting this proposition, I nevertheless cannot shut my 
eyes to the fact that in this particular instance the people will, rightly 
or wrongly, associate me with whatever policy is adopted by my 
advisers, dispensing praise or blame according as that policy is in 
agreement or antagonistic to their own opinions. 

While you admit the Sovereign's undoubted power to change his 
advisers, I infer that you regard the exercise of that power as in- 
expedient and indeed dangerous. 
H 225 

The King's questions 

Should the Sovereign iieier exercise that right, not even, to quote 
Sir Erskine -May, *in the interests of the State and on grounds which 
could be justified to Parliament'? Bagehot wrote, 'The Sovereign too 
possesses a power according to theory for extreme use on a critical 
occasion, but which in law he can use on any occasion. He can 
dissolve . . /. 

The Parliament Act 'was not intended in any way to affect, and it is 
submitted has not affected the Constitutional position of the Sovereign*. 
But the Preamble of the Bill stated an intention to create a new 
Second Chamber; that this could not be done immediately; mean- 
while provision by the Bill would be made for restricting the powers 
of the House of Lords. 

Does not such an organic change in the Constitutional position of 
one of the Estates of the Realm also affect the relations of all three to 
one another; and the failure to replace it on an effective footing 
deprive the Sovereign of the assistance of the Second Chamber? 

Should the Home Rule Bill become law I gather you consider that 
there is a 'certainty of tumult and riot and more than a possibility of 
serious bloodshed', but you do not anticipate 'anything which could 
rightly be described as Civil War'. 

If, however, the union which you contemplate of the 'consider- 
able and militant minority' of Roman Catholics in North-East Ulster 
with the forces of the executive is carried into effect, will not the 
armed struggle between these sections of the people constitute Civil 
War, more especially if the forces of Ulster are reinforced from Eng- 
land, Scotland and even the Colonies, which contingency I am assured 
is highly probable? 

Do you propose to employ the Army to suppress such disorders? 

This is, to my mind, one of the most serious questions which the 
Government will have to decide. 

In doing so you will, I am sure, bear in mind that ours is a voluntary 
Army; our Soldiers are none the less Citizens; by birth, religion and 
environment they may have strong feelings on the Irish question; 
outside influence may be brought to bear upon them; they see dis- 
tinguished retired Officers already organising local forces hi Ulster; 
they hear rumours of Officers on the Active List throwing up their 
Commissions to join this force. 

Will it be wise, will it be fair to the Sovereign as head of the Army, 
to subject the discipline, and indeed the loyalty of his troops, to such 
a strain? 

Have you considered the effect upon the Protestant sentiments in 
these Islands and the Colonies of the coercion of Ulster? 

I quite admit the grave prospects resulting from a rejection of the 

But is the demand for Home Rule in Ireland as earnest and as 
National to-day as it was, for instance, in the days of Parnell? 

Has not the Land Purchase Policy settled the agrarian trouble, 
which was the chief motive of the Home Rule agitation? 


/9/j 'Ought there not to be an election?* 

I am assured by resident Landowners in the South and West of 
Ireland that their tenants, while ostensibly favourable to Home Rule, 
are no longer enthusiastic about it, and are, comparatively speaking, 
content and well-to-do. 

The hierarchy of the Church of Rome is indifferent and probably 
at heart would be glad not to come under the power of an Irish Parlia- 

The application of forcible methods to govern Ireland, were the 
Bill rejected, would in your opinion 'offend the conscience of Great 

But surely not more so than their application against Ukter? 

With regard to your objections to a General Election between now 
and the beginning of next Session. 

It is the case, unfortunately, that Sir Edward Carson and his 
friends declare that they would not be influenced by a verdict at the 
Polls in favour of Home Rule. And here let me assure you that I view 
with the gravest concern the advocacy of what Sir Edward Carson 
openly admits to be illegal measures in the resistance of North-East 
Ulster to the constituted law and authority of the land. Still we have 
the assurance of the Unionist leaders that in the event of the Country 
declaring in favour of Home Rule, they will support the Government 
instead of supporting Ulster, as they intend to do if an appeal to the 
Country is refiised. 

Is due consideration given to the fact that although Home Rule has 
been before the Country for 30 years, the present Bill differs materially 
from any previous Home Rule Bill; that it has never been before the 
Country; that it is opposed by practically the whole of the House of 
Lords; by one third of the House of Commons; by half the population 
of England, and that it was forced through the House of Commons, 
pages of it never having been discussed? 

I recognise your argument that the proposed General Election 
would not be fought on Home Rule, but on a 'score of other issues', so 
that you would not obtain a mandate pur et single upon Home Rule. 

But I suppose this argument might be equally urged to show that 
the General Election of December 1910 gave no verdict in favour of 
Home Rule. 

Would it not be right in order to ensure a lasting settlement, to 
make certain that it is the wish of my people that the Union of Ireland 
shall be repealed by a measure which was not put before them at the 
last Election? 

Is there any other Country in the world which could carry out 
such a fundamental change in its Constitution upon the authority of 
a single chamber? 

Is there any precedent in our own Country for such a change to 
be made without submitting it to the Electorate? 

To the suggestion that a General Election should take place after 
Assent has been given to the Bill, I see the most serious objections. 

Granted that this policy is adopted, I assume that once the Bill is 


Could not Ulster be excluded? 1913 

passed, outbreaks will occur in Ulster if they have not done so at an 
earlier date. 

Meanwhile Great Britain and Ireland will be plunged into the 
throes of a General Election. 

If the Government are returned to power, Ulster will probably 
resist more vigorously than ever. 

On the other hand, if the Government are defeated, a new 
Ministry will be formed, Parliament reassembled, the Home Rule Bill 
perhaps repealed, followed by revolt in the South and West of Ireland, 
and finally the Sovereign's Assent asked for to repeal the Act to which 
only a few months before he had affixed his signature. 

I can hardly think that Ministers contemplate placing the Country 
and the Sovereign in such a position. . . . 

Recollecting my conversations with you on August nth, and with 
Mr Birrell a fortnight earlier, I trust that some agreement may be 
found on the lines then suggested, such as leaving out North-East 
Ulster from the Scheme for a certain period, say five or ten years, 
with the power to come under the Irish Parliament, if so desired, after 
the question is put to the test of a Referendum in the reserved Counties. 

The objection urged that this arrangement would involve the 
desertion of the Protestants in other parts of Ireland, is met by the 
fact that the Nationalist minority in Ulster would be placed at a similar 

It seems inconceivable to me that British commonsense will not 
ultimately find a solution to this terrible prospect of rebellion and 
bloodshed in so rich and flourishing a part of my Dominions. 

Assuming that the aim of both political Parties is to secure good 
Government, prosperity and loyal contentment for the Irish people, it 
must be admitted that these objects cannot be attained by the policy 
so far advocated by either Liberal or Conservative Governments. 

Therefore, we can only hope for the attainment of these objects by 
common agreement upon some alternative course. 

Nevertheless, I entirely recognise all the grave difficulties which 
must confront anyone who endeavours to secure by consent the 
settlement of a question which has divided Ireland for many genera- 

I rejoice to know that you are ready and anxious to enter into a 
Conference if a definite basis can be found upon which to confer. 

For my part, I will gladly do everything in my power to induce the 
Opposition to meet you in a reasonable and conciliatory spirit. 

For it behooves us all to withhold no efforts to avert those threaten- 
ing events which would inevitably outrage humanity and lower the 
British name in the mind of the whole civilised world. 

I have endeavoured to comment frankly upon your Memorandum, 
and I trust that in your next letter you will give your views upon the 
various points referred to before I have the pleasure of seeing you 
here on the 6th October. 

The Memorandum has been seen by no one except my Private 


1913 Mr Asquith's olive branch 

Secretary, nor have I mentioned the fact that I have received it to 

Believe me, 

My dear Prime Minister, 
Very sincerely yours, 


Mr Asquith replied to this formidable letter on October i. He 
knew that he would be seeing the King within a few days and he 
therefore confined himself to reaffirming what he had written before. 
For the King to dismiss the Government might entail consequences 
Very injurious to the authority of the Crown 5 ; repellent as it might 
be to have to take measures of coercion against Ulster, it was the duty 
of a Government to see that the law was enforced; even if this en- 
tailed the use of the military. Mr Asquith did not anticipate that the 
troops would fail to do their duty. The Prime Minister concluded 
with a significant sentence: 

C I am still as anxious as anyone can be that the dangers to social order 
incident, either in the passing or the rejection of the Bill (and the 
latter is in my opinion by far the more formidable contingency) should 
be averted by some special arrangement in regard to the North East, 
which is not inconsistent with the fundamental principle and purpose 
of the Bill.'*' 

From that point onward the controversy was concentrated on the 
conditions which Mr Asquith and Mr Bonar Law, Mr Redmond and 
Sir Edward Carson, would accept for the exclusion of Ulster from the 
operation of the Home Rule Bill. The discussions which ensued, in 
which the King played an important mediatory petit, culminated in 
the Buckingham Palace Conference of July 1914. They will there- 
fore be examined in the next chapter. 





Mr Balfour's view of the Irish situation The King^s conversations at 
Balmoral His interview with the Prime Minister Mr Asquith 
holds two secret meetings with Mr Bonar Law A deadlock is 
reached The King tries to break the deadlock He raises with Mr 
Asquith the question of the Royal Assent His speech from the 
Throne Further efforts to secure a compromise The Prime 
Minister, in moving the second reading of the Home Rule Bill, offers 
the exclusion of Ulster The Curragh incident The Lame gun- 
running The Prime Minister considers the moment has arrived for 
the leaders of the parties to meet in Conference They are sum- 
moned to Buckingham Palace The Conference fails The Austrian 
ultimatum to Serbia The King and Prince Henry of Prussia The 
Declaration of War. 

MR ARTHUR BALFOUR, from his ivory tower at Whittingehame, 
watched the clash of personalities and parties with a detached but 
observant eye. On September 23, 1913, he sent to Lord Stamford- 
ham, for communication to the King, a copy of a letter which he had 
that day written to Mr Bonar Law. *I look', he wrote, 'with much 
misgiving upon the general loosening of the ordinary ties of social 
obligation. 5 He foresaw with apprehension that the Irish of the south 
would be bound sooner or later to imitate the armed Covenanters of 
the northern counties; .that if British troops were ordered to coerce 
Ulster, many officers would send in their resignations; and that in the 
House of Commons the Opposition might be provoked to scenes of 
violence such as 'would strip that Assembly of even those few rags of 
consideration which have been left it by seven years of Radical 
Government*. He agreed that the ideal solution would be to hold a 
General Election before the Home Rule Bill was forced through both 
Chambers. But as Mr Asquith was unwilling to demand a dissolution, 
and as the King was equally unwilling to dismiss a Government still 
commanding a majority in Parliament, then the only possible solu- 
tion was to agree to a compromise by which the Ulster counties 
would be excluded from the operation of the Bill. 

This letter and the simple doctrine it embodied crystallised the 

/9/5 Mr Asquith at Balmoral 

successive ideas which, during the past few months, had been passing 
through the King's mind. On October i Lord Stamfordham wrote 
to Mr Bonar Law, 6 saying that the King was most anxious to bring 
about a conference between the leaders of the several parties, but 
that the Cabinet felt that they could not themselves initiate such a 
proposal. Would he, Mr Bonar Law, put down a motion or an 
amendment to that effect? Mr Bonar Law replied that his Party 
would not consent to his taking such an initiative, since it would 
imply that he accepted the principle of Home Rule, an implication 
which would wound the feelings of all Irish loyalists. Mr Bonar Law 
felt that any such invitation should come from the King himself. 
'If, he wrote, 'it originated with him, it would be easier for the 
leaders of my Party to agree to it.' c 

While at Balmoral that September, the King had taken the 
opportunity to discuss the situation with the many Ministers and 
statesmen who came there in attendance or as his guests. The com- 
ments which he made in his diary upon their respective attitudes 
were synthetic rather than analytical. He had found Lord Crewe 
'fairly sympathetic 9 , Sir Edward Grey 'nice and sensible 5 , Lord 
Lansdowne c not very satisfactory', Mr Winston Churchill 'sensible 
and fairly reasonable 3 , Mr Balfour himself 'serious and very sym- 
pathetic*. Mr Lewis Harcourt (who like many timid men was 
inclined to become strident when he wished to appear courageous) 
struck him as 'most unsatisfactory': he stated afterwards that Mr 
Harcourt had employed 'bludgeoning words'. 1 On October 6 the 
Prime Minister himself arrived: 'Had a conversation with him before 
dinner on political situation. He owned it was serious, but was 
optimistic as usual.' 

Mr Asquith remained three days at Balmoral and Lord Stam- 
fordham summarised in a memorandum the main points which 
emerged from the repeated discussions which took place.* The Prime 

1 Lord Esher, who had originally been of opinion that in no circum- 
stances should the King go counter to the advice of his Ministers, changed 
his mind and contended that, in view of the danger of civil war, it was now 
the King's duty to dismiss Mr Asquith and to entrust the Government to 
some 'neutral' statesman, such as Lord Rosebery, in order that a General 
Election could be held. The King replied that he did not in the least want 
to be deprived of the services of his present Ministers, partly because he 
trusted Mr Asquith personally, and partly because the departure of Sir 
Edward Grey would be a European misfortune. Lord Esher told the King 
that 'he ought not to worry himself to death, but put the matter aside. The 
King turned abruptly away with some emotion' (Esher, vol. Ill, p. 155) . 


He agrees to meet Mr Bonar Law 1913 

Minister did not think that, in view of Sir Edward Carson's attitude 
and speeches, a conference between party leaders could serve any 
useful purpose: it would prove, he said, either c a tea party or a bear 
garden". The Government did not intend to arrest Sir Edward 
Carson for sedition, since that would be 'to throw a lighted match 
into a powder barrel'. The King asked the Prime Minister whether 
he did not consider the threat to coerce Ulster as 'un-English and 
contrary to all Liberal and democratic principles'. Mr Asquith did 
not deny this imputation. What he did do was to promise immedi- 
ately to enter into secret conversations with Mr Bonar Law, in order 
to find whether any possible basis of settlement could be devised. He 
was not sanguine as to the result. 

The King was relieved that the Prime Minister had, to this ex- 
tent, agreed to the course which His Majesty had for long been 
urging upon him. He felt confident that once Mr Asquith and Mr 
Bonar Law got down to discussing the position face to face, and 
independently of their own extremists, some compromise would be 
found which would avert rebellion or civil war, and relieve him of 
the odious alternatives of having either to condone bloodshed or 
resort to a controversial exercise of his Prerogative: 

'The King seems', reported Count Mensdorff four days later/ 'firmly 
resolved to maintain a strictly constitutional attitude and to resist all 
suggestions (which are constantly being made to him, especially from 
Opposition quarters) that he should intervene personally.' 

The Prime Minister, on his return from Balmoral, held two secret 
meetings with Mr Bonar Law. The first took place on October 14, 
when a tentative agreement was reached for the exclusion of the 
Ulster counties. The second took place on November 6, by which 
time, as Mr Asquith reported to the King/ 'opinion was stiffening 
among the rank and file on both sides, and the idea of a compromise, 
and even a Conference, was regarded with growing disfavour and 
suspicion.' Mr Bonar Law showed no ardent desire to continue these 
conversations: he allowed six weeks of silence to elapse.* x 

1 It is clear that some misunderstanding arose between Mr Asquith 
and Mr Bonar Law at the second interview. The latter was left under the 
impression that the Prime Minister had promised to submit to the Cabinet 
the proposal to exclude Ulster, and had undertaken that they would 
agree. Mr Asquith, however, had merely said that he would 'report the 
substance of the conversation' and would then, if his colleagues approved, 
ask Mr Birrdl to approach Mr Redmond. Mr Bonar Law remained con- 
vinced thereafter that the Prime Minister had failed to keep his word 
(RA.K.2 55 3,VI, 103). 

The King warns Mr Asquith 


By the beginning of 1914 a deadlock appeared to have been 
reached. On January 2, 1914, the King wrote to Lord Stamfordham 
from Sandringham repeating his determination to continue working 
for a settlement by consent : A 

'I must confess that I am greatly concerned & I begin to feel that 
these private conversations between the P.M. & B.L. & Carson are 
going to fail for the reasons I put on paper some weeks ago. ... I am 
perfectly prepared to take the proper responsibility which belongs to 
the Sovereign of this Country, but I shall continue so long as I can to 
persuade the parties concerned to come to an agreement & I shall 
certainly do all in my power to prevent civil war & bloodshed in Ire- 
land. If I was to say to the P.M. <e You must either settle this question 
by consent, or else go to the Country" he would say at once: "That 
is what the Unionists say! They want an election and won't accept our 
proposals, which we think fair!" . . . No the more I think of it all, the 
more worried I get. But I am not discouraged, and, with your kind 
help, common sense, good judgement & advice, I think I shall come 
out on top; at least I mean to try to! ... If you think it necessary later, 
I shall certainly ask the P.M. to come here to see me for one night; he 
can stay at Park House. I shall keep on bothering him as much as 

On February 5 the King gave an audience to the Prime Minister 
at Windsor. He warned Mr Asquith that, if the negotiations failed 
and civil war resulted, many army officers would resign their com- 
missions rather than fight. 'But whom', Mr Asquith enquired, c are 
they going to fight?' The King went on to say that Ulster would 
never, no matter what guarantees were given, consent to be placed 
under a Dublin Parliament. A General Election would c clear the air 9 , 
would show whether the Government really possessed a mandate 
for Home Rule, and in any case relieve the King and the Prime 
Minister of responsibility for what followed. Mr Asquith replied that 
a General Election would settle nothing and that, whatever might 
be the consequences, the responsibility would rest, not with the King, 
but with his Ministers: 

'The King replied', Lord Stamfordham recorded,' 'that, although 
constitutionally he might not be responsible, still he could not allow 
bloodshed among his loyal subjects in any part of his Dominions with- 
out exerting every means in his power to avert it. Although at the 
present stage of the proceedings he could not rightly intervene he 
should fed it his duty to do what in his own judgement was best for 
his people generally. 

"The Prime Minister expressed no little surprise at this declaration 

and said he never thought that anything of this kind was contemplated 

HI 233 

Mr Asquith surprised 1914 

and, "if he might speak frankly", he earnestly trusted His Majesty 
did not think of refusing Assent. Such a thing had not been done since 
the reign of Queen Anne and would inevitably prove disastrous to the 
Monarchy. His Majesty could, however, if he chose dismiss his 
Ministers. But in that case, it would be most unfair to do so once this 
new Session had begun; otherwise, the whole work of the past two 
years would, through the action of the Parliament Act, be sacrificed. 
It ought to be done at once, before Parliament meets on the loth instant; 
though he would respectfully deprecate such a course & would offer 
his strong advice against it, not for his own sake so much as for that of 
the Crown. He hoped he had not so far forfeited the King's confidence 
as to justify such a step. 

'His Majesty said that the Prime Minister had not forfeited his con- 
fidence & that he had no intention of dismissing his Ministers, although 
his future action must be guided by circumstances. The King said he 
was ready to do anything in his power to bring about a settlement by 
consent. He would see the P.M. at any time, and if the latter would 
only give him a hint, he would send for Mr Bonar Law, or even Sir E. 
Carson, and endeavour to induce them to come to an agreement; and 
he would not mind were his efforts rebuffed. 9 ' 1 

1 The King's considered opinion upon the right of the Sovereign to 
withold Assent to a Bill passed by Parliament was expressed in a letter 
which, on July 31, 1914, he drafted in consultation with Lord Loreburn. 
This letter was never despatched to the Prime Minister in view of the 
imminence of war. The draft contained the following initial paragraph 
(RA.K.2553,VI, 5 6): 

'The bill for the better Government of Ireland having now passed 
through the necessary stages, the King concludes that, by the terms of the 
Parliament Act, it \vill come on, automatically, for his Assent, unless the 
House of Commons direct to the contrary. 

c Much has been said and written in favour of the proposition that the 
Assent of the Crown should be withheld from the measure. On the other 
hand, the King feels strongly that that extreme course should not be 
adopted in this case unless there is convincing evidence that it would 
avert a national disaster, or at least have a tranquillizing effect on the 
distracting conditions of the time. There is no such evidence.' 

The King then pointed out that the Bill reached him under a novel 
procedure, 'the result of a drastic, though as yet incomplete, change in 
the British Constitution/ and without its 'being reinforced by the verdict 
of the Electorate, upon which the ultimate responsibility should properly 
be placed in a self-governing State'. He therefore frit entitled to ask his 
Ministers to provide h^n with 'a statement of the full and considered 
reasons' which impelled them to advise him to give his Assent and asked 
that this statement should be laid before him 'in a form which can be put 
on record for the use of his successors and referred to if any necessity should 
hereafter arise'. 

Since this letter was never despatched, it is not quoted in the text, but 
relegated, as Sipiicejttstifoative, to a note. 


Ihe king's effort to conciliate 

On February 10 the King opened Parliament in state: 
*fty speech was rather long, & unforttmately the Lord Chancellor 
gave me the paper in small print, instead of the one in large type, 
which put me out. I laid great stress on the paragraph about Home 
Rule for Ireland, in which I appeal for a peaceful settlement.' 

The paragraph in question, which had of course been drafted in 
Cabinet, ran as follows: 

*In a matter in which the hopes and fears of so many of My subjects are 
keenly concerned, and which unless handled now with foresight, 
judgement and in the spirit of mutual concession threatens grave 
future difficulties, it is My most earnest wish that the goodwill and co- 
operation of men of all parties and creeds may heal disunion and lay 
the foundations of a lasting settlement. 9 

The King felt that this appeal had 'created a very good im- 
pression on all sides', and he took the occasion again to urge the 
Prime Minister publicly to state what he was prepared to offer as a 
settlement. "May not harm be done', he wrote to him/ 'by raising 
false hopes & by delaying the announcement of what is the limit of 
your concessions?' At the same time he instructed Lord Stamfordham 
to urge Mr Bonar Law to be moderate in his own speeches and to 
curb those of his supporters: 

'No Britisher', Lord Stamdfordham wrote to Mr Bonar Law,* Tikes 
being told that he is a coward or that he has got the "funks". And if 
the Government are held up to contempt because they are running 
away from their Bill in terror of Civil War, they will stiffen up and 
make an agreement still more difficult.' 

The King also authorised his Private Secretary to visit Sir 
Edward Carson at his private house in the hope of persuading him 
not to make a violent speech when the Home Rule Bill was again 
introduced into Parliament Sir Edward Carson informed Lord 
Stamfordham that he certainly intended to press the Prime Minister 
to say whether or no his Government were in favour of the exclusion 
of Ulster. All this delay, he said, was becoming intolerable and he 
did not know for how much longer he would be able to control his 
followers who were becoming more and more indifferent to personal 
risk, and who were confident, to a man, that 'the King would not 
desert them'. At the same time Sir Edward Carson expressed his 
personal regard for Mr Asquith and his trust in his sincerity; all that 
he himself desired was a settlement which would satisfy the people 
ofUlster. 1 

Meanwhile, Mr Birrdl and Mr Lloyd George had been exer- 
cising their dazzling gifts of persuasion upon Mr Redmond. Un- 


The danger of civil war 

willingly he had agreed to the exclusion of Ulster for a period of 
years; the Unionists intimated that, if this meant that Ulster would 
automatically come under Dublin when the period of years had 
expired, they would be wholly unable to consider any such com- 

On March 9, 1914, the Prime Minister in the House of Commons 
moved the second reading of the Home Rule Bill. He then made a 
courageous gesture of conciliation. He offered Ulster exclusion for 
a period of six years. Sir Edward Carson asked what would happen 
at the expiration of that period, and Mr Asquith replied by pointing 
out that the period would only expire in July 1921, by which date 
two General Elections would have been held in England and other 
Parliaments might have been chosen who would reverse the whole 
procedure. Both Mr Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson stated that 
exclusion must be absolute and without a time limit. 6 We do not 
want 5 , the latter exclaimed, 'a sentence of death with a stay of 
execution for six years.' Mr Redmond replied that it had meant a 
cruel sacrifice for him to accept even a limited and conditional 
exclusion and that his Party could not consider going beyond the 
proposal which the Prime Minister had made. 1 

On March 19 the King had a long and intimate conversation 
with Mr Asquith in which he urged upon him the increasing gravity 
of the situation and the dreadful predicament which would face the 
Crown if civil war broke out. On the one hand he was being appealed 
to to exert his Prerogative; on the other hand the left-wing papers 
were accusing him and 'Court hangers-on* of bringing undue 
pressure to bear: m 

'The King said he had always been frank with Mr Asquith and told 
him all he heard. As to "Court hangers-on", he only discussed political 
affairs with his Private Secretary, who was also in the Prime Minister's 
confidence. His one object had been to help the Prime Minister, who 
had, he knew, done all in his power to secure a peaceful settlement. 

1 The Government proposal was that each of the Ulster counties (in- 
cluding the cities of Londonderry and Belfast) should ballot separately as 
to whether they desired inclusion within the Home Rule area. Any county 
in which there was a clear majority for exclusion might contract out for 
six years. After that period, it would automatically come under the 
jurisdiction of the Dublin Parliament. It was generally assumed that 
Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan would vote for inclusion; that in Fer- 
managh and Tyrone the vote would be almost equally divided, with a 
possible Catholic majority; and that the city of Londonderry would also 
vote for inclusion. 


1914 The Curragh incident 

Mr Asquith said he too had been accused, even by some of his friends, 
of weakness in giving in to Court influence which of course was absurd. 
At the same time it was only out of his great consideration for the King 
that he had gone on trying during these weary months to effect a 
settlement. He was deeply grateful to the King, without whose help 
he could not have achieved as much as had been done. Throughout, 
the King had, he considered, behaved in exactly the manner a 
Constitutional Sovereign should act.' 

That same afternoon, in the House of Commons, Mr Bonar Law 
moved a vote of censure on the Government. In referring to the 
impending coercion of Ulster, he said that the attitude of the Army 
was for the Army to decide. The debate was still proceeding when 
Sir Edward Carson strode starkly out of the House with a look of 
destiny upon his haggard covenanter face. A whisper flew round 
the benches that he was taking the night mail for Belfast: there were 
few who doubted that on the next morning the Provisional Govern- 
ment of Ulster would be proclaimed. 


On March 18, 1914, Sir Arthur Paget, the General Officer 
Commanding the troops in Ireland, was summoned to London. He 
had interviews with Colonel Seely, the Secretary of State for War, 
with Sir John French, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and 
with Sir Spencer Ewart, the Adjutant-General. He also saw the 
members of the Cabinet Committee which had been specially con- 
stituted to follow the hourly developments of the Irish situation. 1 
The instructions which Sir Arthur Paget then received were verbal 
only and were not, unfortunately, recorded in writing. The Govern- 
ment contended later that all Sir Arthur Paget had been asked to do 
was to secure that the military and naval depots and magazines in 
northern Ireland were adequately protected against any sudden raid 
by mischievous persons. Sir Arthur Paget seems to have derived a 
different impression of their intentions. He returned to Dublin on 
March 19 and in the early morning of Friday, March 20, he sum- 
moned his Generals and Brigadiers and informed them that they 
must immediately present to the officers under their commands an 
ultimatum with a two hours' limit. Either these officers must agree 
to take part in "active operations' in Ulster, or they must send in 
their resignations, be dismissed from the service and forfeit their 

1 This Committee was composed of Mr Birrdl, Mr Churchill, Colonel 
Seely and the Attorney-General. 


General Gough 

pensions. General Hubert Gough, commanding the Third Cavalry 
Brigade, returned with this ultimatum to the Gurragh Gamp. He 
informed his officers that he himself had decided to resign his com- 
mission rather than take part in c active operations' against the Ulster 
Volunteers. As many as fifty-seven senior and junior officers resolved 
to follow his example and to send in their papers. 

On learning of this startling strike, Sir Arthur Paget drove 
quickly to the Gurragh and sought to persuade the officers to re- 
consider their decision. According to General Gough's account,* 1 he 
then told them that all Ireland, within the next twenty-four hours, 
would c be in a blaze*, that it would be necessary to 'hold the line of 
the Boyne' and that as many as 25,000 troops were being sent from 
England as reinforcements. He said that his instructions were 'the 
direct orders of the Sovereign 9 and not merely the commands of 
c those dirty swine, the politicians'. It is of course possible that, in 
subsequently recording these remarks, General Gough's recollection 
of the actual words used may have been at fault; but General Paget, 
even in his less excited moments, was not a man of measured language 
or meek tact. 

The King first heard of this deplorable episode when he opened 
his newspaper on the morning of Saturday, March 2 1 : 

'Had a most harrassing day', he wrote in his diary, c on account of 
General Gough & most of the officers of the Cavalry Brigade resigning 
at the Curragh, as it appears they were asked if they would fight 
against Ulster. . . . Saw Colonel Seely & I spoke very strongly to him. 
Lord Roberts came to see me & was in despair about it all & said it 
would ruin the Army. ... I had an interview with Sir John French & 
impressed upon him the gravity of the situation & that if great tact 
were not shown there would be no Army left. Worked with Bigge. 
Wrote to the Prime Minister. We dined alone, read in the evening. 
Bed at 1 1 .o very tired.' 

The King wrote to Mr Asquith complaining that he had never 
been informed of the instructions given to Sir Arthur Paget, or of the 
proposed movement of military detachments into Ulster, or of the 
naval dispositions which, it was rumoured, were also contemplated. 
What rendered hi particularly indignant was that his own name 
should have been mentioned in the address given by Sir Arthur 
Paget to the officers at the Gurragh. When he tackled the General on 
this subject, the latter lamely replied that 'all orders to the Army 
were the King's orders'. 1 

1 The extent to which irresponsible people were apt to drag the King's 
name into the Ulster controversy is illustrated by what may be called the 

Effect of the Curragh incident 

The Government took quick steps to mitigate the damage which 
the Curragh incident had caused. On March 22 they issued a state- 
ment that it had not been their intention to move troops into Ulster 
for any purpose other than the protection of the ammunition depots. 
General Gough was summoned to the War Office, informed that 
Sir Arthur Paget's ultimatum had been the result of 'a misunder- 
standing 3 and instructed to resume his command. General Gough 
refused to return to Ireland unless he were first given a written 
assurance which he could show to his officers. A minute was there- 
fore composed and initialled by Colonel Seely, Sir John French and 
Sir Spencer Ewart stating that His Majesty's Government 'have no 
intention whatever of taking advantage of their right to use the 
forces of the Crown to maintain law and order to crush political 
opposition to the policy or principles of the Home Rule Bill 5 . 
General Gough returned in triumph to the Curragh. 'All is the same 
as before,' the King wrote in his diary, "so the danger for the moment 
is over.' 

The Curragh incident none the less left behind it a sequence of 
unpleasant consequences. Abroad, it was taken as a sign that Great 
Britain would for some time be paralysed by mutiny and dissension. 
At home, it created the double suspicion that the Cabinet would 
always surrender to a determined minority and that, whatever assur- 
ances they might give in public, the Government had in fact planned 
to coerce Ulster by a rigorous blockade. 1 The Cabinet repudiated 

'Repington incident'. Colonel Repington, on page 69 of volume I of his 
published diary, stated that Sir Edward Carson had informed him that 
the Government had decided to arrest the Ulster leaders and were only 
deterred by the King's personal intervention. When Lord Stamfordham 
made enquiries, Sir Edward Carson replied that he had never said any- 
thing of the sort. 'Repington', he wrote, 'is the limit!' (R.A. 0.1631, 3). 
Colonel Repington thereupon agreed to delete the offending passage from 
subsequent editions. In 1921, at the time of the King's visit to Belfast, the 
Daily Herald revived the story that the King had intervened to prevent his 
Ministers from carrying out their intentions. An official denial was issued 
to the Press on July 15, 1921, above the signature of the Lord Chancellor 
as Keeper of the King's Conscience. 

1 In a two-page article entitled "The Plot that Failed' The Times news- 
paper on April 27 contended that what the Government had really 
contemplated was *a calculated scheme for the investment of Ulster by 
land and sea'. As evidence for this they cited the order issued to the 3rd 
Battle Squadron of eight battleships to concentrate at Lamlash in the 
Isle of Arran: the appointment of General Nevil Macready as C.-in-C. in 
Belfast with powers to establish martial law; and a speech by Mr Churchill 


The Lame episode 
the specific assurances which had been given to General Gough by 
Colonel Seely and the latter, together with Sir John French and Sir 
Spencer Ewart, resigned. With commendable fortitude, Mr Asquith 
himself assumed the post of Secretary of State for War. 

The Curragh incident was followed a month later by an exploit 
which convinced the public, the Government, and the Irish national- 
ists, that any attempt to coerce Ulster would entail a major opera- 
tion of war. On the night of April 24-25 Sir Edward Carson's 
Volunteers were secretly mobilised and succeeded without inter- 
ference in landing at Larne a consignment of 25,000 rifles and three 
million rounds of ammunition. The Cabinet decided that this 
audacious outrage must be punished by instant and effective action. 
They considered prosecuting Sir Edward Carson and his lieutenants 
for felony and treason and proclaiming the whole Ulster move- 
ment to be a treasonable conspiracy. Mr Redmond advised them 
against any such provocative reprisals. In the end they referred 
the matter to the Attorney-General for Ireland and no more was 

The King, as a result of these incidents, intensified his efforts to 
secure a settlement by consent. Already on April 7 he had written to 
the Prime Minister warning him that 'time was slipping away' and 
that prompt steps must be taken if a national calamity were to be 
averted. 1 have', he wrote, Absolute confidence in your ability to 
bring about a peaceful solution whenever you put into force the 
great powers you possess.' On June 1 1 he again sought to encourage 
Mr Asquith to take a firmer and less dilatory line. He contended that 
the Prime Minister underrated his own powers and that c if he put 
his foot down, both Mr Redmond and the Liberal Party would 
accept his terms'. Mr Asquith replied that His Majesty had formed 
too high an estimate of a Prime Minister's authority. 'But', he added, 
'in the last moment I shall run any risk of self-sacrifice.' 11 

Meanwhile Mr Asquith resumed his private discussions with Mr 
Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson, while concurrent and unofficial 
negotiations were held between Lord Rothermere, Lord Murray, 
at Huddersfield on March 14 in which he said 'Let us go forward together 
and put these grave matters to the proof. 

It might be argued on the other hand that the Government were 
bound to take precautions to meet the possibility that Sir Edward Carson 
would proclaim a Provisional Government and that the ammunition 
depots would be raided. And that these precautions were cancelled, not 
because of the Curragh incident, but because the dangers they were 
planned to meet did not in fact materialise. 

19*4 The King advised to intervene 

and Mr Redmond. By the end of June it seemed not impossible 
that an understanding could be reached for the exclusion of Ulster 
without a time limit or conditions, provided only that the two parties 
could agree as to the geographical boundaries of the new autono- 
mous province. The issue was thus narrowed down to the question 
whether the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone should or should 
not be incorporated in Ulster. It was agreed that the Home Rule 
Bill should become law, but that at the same time an Amending 
Bill should be introduced, by which the four or six Ulster counties 
should be excluded from its operation. 

As early as May i the King had approached the Speaker and 
enquired whether, if the opportunity arose, he would be willing to 
preside at a conference between the several parties to the dispute. 
Mr Lowther assured His Majesty that he would be only too glad to 
be of assistance. On May 17 and again on June 19 the King urged 
the Prime Minister to take advantage of the Speaker's readiness. 
Mr Asquith on both occasions replied that the moment was not yet 
ripe. On July 17 the King received from the Prime Minister a letter 
stating that in his opinion the occasion for a conference had at last 
arrived: 5 

'An arrangement is not only possible, but practicable, in regard to 
Fermanagh, on the basis of the Nationalists giving up the city of 
Londonderry and the Unionists conceding South Armagh and the 
Catholic parts of South Down. But under present conditions, neither 
party is prepared to give way, in the sense of partition, in regard to the 
County of Tyrone. 

'If the Amending Bill is brought up for debate on Monday in the 
House of Commons, neither the Government nor the Opposition, in 
view of the dominating opinion of their respective followers, can at the 
moment publicly offer any acceptable form of compromise. 

'The probable, and indeed inevitable, course of the debate will be 
to accentuate and to emphasize differences; to elicit on both sides 
irreconcilable statements of policy and purpose; to bar the road tc 
settlement; and to open the way to violent and regrettable action. 

c lt appears to Mr Asquith, after consultation with his colleagues, 
that it is his duty to advise Your Majesty, before the crisis become! 
acute, to intervene with the object of securing a pacific accommoda- 

*He has, therefore, the honour to propose that, before the debate 
opens, he should be authorised to answer that Your Majesty wil 
invite the representatives of all parties concerned both British ant 
Irish to a Conference to be held, under Your Majesty's auspices, a 
Buckingham Palace for a free and full discussion of the outstanding 


He summons a Conference - 1914 

It may be that such a Conference will be unable at the moment to 
attain a definitive settlement, but it will certainly postpone and may 
avert dangerous and possibly irreparable action, and in Mr Asquith's 
opinion it is not only within the competence, but at such a time part 
of the duty, of a Constitutional Sovereign to exert his authority in the 
best interests both of the United Kingdom and of the Empire. 9 

The King replied, cordially welcoming the Prime Minister's 
advice. 'It is*, he wrote/ 'a pleasure to me that the Conference will 
take place in my house, where I shall gladly welcome its members/ 
'The Irish of both sections', Mr Asquith warned Lord Stamfordham,* 
c attach the greatest importance to their being summoned to the 
Conference by the King. Only so can they save their faces with their 
more extreme supporters.' 

The conference was thus convened in the Forty-Four room at 
Buckingham Palace on July 2 1 - 1 The King had prepared a speech of 
welcome, which he took the precaution of first submitting to the 
Prime Minister for his approval. 2 Having delivered his address, 
the King withdrew, leaving the Conference to its deliberations. 

1 The Government were represented by the Prime Minister and Mr 
Lloyd George, the Opposition by Mr Bonar Law and Lord Lansdowne, 
Ulster by Sir Edward Carson and Captain J. Craig, and the Irish 
Nationalists by Mr Redmond and Mr Dillon. The chair was taken by Mr 
James Lowther, Speaker of the House of Commons. 

2 The text of the King's speech was as follows: 

'It gives me infinite satisfaction to receive you here today, and I thank 
you for the manner in which you have responded to my summons. It is 
also a matter of congratulation that the Speaker has consented to preside 
over your deliberations. 

'My intervention at this moment may be regarded as a new departure. 
But the exceptional circumstances under which you are brought together 
justify my action. 

Tor months we have watched with deep misgivings the course of events 
hi Ireland. The trend has been surely and steadily towards an appeal to 
force, and today the cry of Civil War is on the lips of the most responsible 
and sober-minded of my people. 

* We have in the past endeavoured to act as a civilising example to the 
world, and to me it is unthinkable, as it must be tg you, that we should 
be brought to the brink of a fratricidal war upon issues apparently so 
capable of adjustment as those you are now asked to consider, if handled 
in a spirit of generous compromise. 

'My apprehension in contemplating such a dire calamity is intensified 
by my feelings of attachment to Ireland and of sympathy for her people 
who have always welcomed me with warm-hearted affection. 

'Gentlemen, you represent in one form or another the vast majority of 

Buckingham Palace Conference 

The conference held four meetings between July 21 and 24, but 
in spite of the desire of the leaders of the two English parties to reach 
some basis of agreement, neither Mr Redmond nor Sir Edward 
Carson could agree upon the geographical limits to be given to the 
term 'Ulster'. The conference broke down, essentially, upon the 
question of Fermanagh and Tyrone. On July 24 the Speaker ad- 
dressed a short note to the King, informing him that the conference, 
'being unable to agree, either in principle or in detail' upon the 
area to be excluded from the operation of the Home Rule Bill, had 
'brought its meetings to a conclusion'. Before their departure from 
Buckingham Palace, the King received each of the representatives 
in private audience. Mr Redmond assured him that, once the Home 
Rule Bill was on the Statute Book, 'the Nationalist Party would be 
able to do many things to meet the views of Ulster which at present 
were impossible'.* The King was satisfied that the conference, in spite 
of its failure, had created 'a more friendly understanding'. 1 

While waiting in the anteroom at Buckingham Palace to say 
goodbye to the King, the Speaker picked up. a copy of the evening 
paper. He read with astonishment and horror the terms of the 
Austrian ultimatum to Serbia." 

my subjects at home. You also have a deep interest in my Dominions over 
seas, who are scarcely less concerned in a prompt and friendly settlement 
of this question. 

'I regard you then in this matter as trustees for the honour and peace 

of all. 

Tour responsibilities are indeed great. The time is short. You will, I 
know, employ it to the fullest advantage and be patient, earnest, and 
conciliatory in view of the magnitude of the issues at stake. I pray that God 
in his infinite wisdom may guide your deliberations so that they may 
result in the joy of peace and settlement.' 

1 The Amending Bill, under which Ulster was to be excluded from the 
operation of the Home Rule BUI, was due for debate on July 31. In view 
of the European situation it was (with the consent of Mr Bonar Law, Mr 
Redmond and Sir Edward Carson) indefinitely postponed. On August 3, 
after Sir Edward Grey's speech, Mr Redmond assured the Govenuncn* 
that they could safely withdraw all their troops from Ireland and that the 
Nationalist and Ulster volunteers would join forces to defend the island 
against any foreign invasion. The Home Rule Bill then passed through 
both Houses accompanied by a simultaneous Act providing that it should 
not come into force until after the war, the Government promising before 
then to bring in a Bill to regulate the position of Ulster. The King signed 
the Commission giving the Royal Assent to the 'Government of Ireland 
Bill 9 on the evening of September 1 7, 1914. 


The Austrian ultimatum 1914 


Mr Winston Churchill in a famous passage of his World Crisis 
has described how, on that evening of July 24, the Cabinet, having 
'toiled for hours around the muddy byways of Fermanagh and 
Tyrone', were startled from their weariness by the quiet voice of Sir 
Edward Grey reading to them the text of this fatal ultimatum. The 
King, in common with the majority of his subjects, had been so 
deeply concerned with the menace of civil war in Ireland that his 
attention had been diverted from the even graver events which, 
since the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo 
on June 28, had been accumulating on the continent of Europe. His 
first mention of the impending disaster occurs in his diary for 
Saturday, July 25: 

c Had a long talk with Sir Edward Grey about Foreign Affairs. It 
looks as if we were on the verge of a general European war. Very 
serious state of affairs.' 

This is not the place to chronicle the frantic efforts made during 
those last eleven days of peace to avert the avalanche which, shifting 
silently at first, acquired hour by hour an ever more thunderous and 
inescapable momentum. The occasions of a war are less instructive 
than its remoter causes. Enough has already been said to indicate 
that the relations between Great Britain and Germany, having 
settled down to an agreed if unformulated naval ratio, having sur- 
vived the dangers of die Agadir crisis and the two Balkan wars, had 
since 1912 entered upon a more realistic and co-operative phase. It 
may be true, as Lord Haldane averred,* that had British statesmen 
since 1878 been less 'illiterate 9 about the spirit and traditions of the 
German people, they might have prevented Europe from being 
sundered into two armed camps. It may be true, as Professor Sidney 
Fay has commented, that war might have been averted had Sir 
Edward Grey been in the position (which he was not) either to tell 
Germany that Great Britain would certainly come in, or to tell 
France and Russia that she would certainly stand out. It may be 
true that, had William II been less emotionally shattered by this 
fresh blow dealt to the aged Austrian Emperor, he might, with his 
pacific instincts and with the aid of Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, 
have succeeded before it was too late in curbing the recklessness 
of the Austrian Foreign Office and General Staff. But this is not the 
place to assess the comparative war-guilt of the four Great Powers. 
We are concerned only with the part played by King George during 
those relentless eleven days. 

Prince Henry of Prussia again 

The King, as has been said, had striven with success to establish 
with the German Emperor relations of personal amity and trust. 
He had also been careful to cement, by every means in his power, 
the friendship between Great Britain and her two Entente partners. 
In April, accompanied by Sir Edward Grey, he had paid a state 
visit to Paris, when the warmth of his reception had impressed all 
observers. As recently as June 16 he had written a private letter to 
the Tsar of Russia, exhorting him to dissuade his Government from 
actions in Persia which could only put a strain upon Anglo-Russian 
co-operation." His relations with Sir Edward Grey were of unclouded 
mutual confidence; the Cabinet knew that the King would support 
and further their policy in every word and deed. It was by a foolish 
mischance that certain words attributed to the King at the very 
height of the crisis should have been misreported to, or misinter- 
preted by, the German Emperor. 

In the early morning of July 26 Prince Henry of Prussia, who had 
been yachting at Gowes, dashed in to Buckingham Palace to say good- 
bye on his return to Germany. On reaching Kiel on July 28 he wrote 
to his brother the Emperor a letter in which he quoted King George as 
saying 'We shall try all we can to keep out of this and shall remain 
neutral.' The Emperor interpreted this as an official assurance of 
England's neutrality and when Admiral von Tirpitz questioned the 
validity of such chance remarks, his Sovereign answered C I have the 
word of a King and that is enough for me'.* On August 10, the 
Emperor, in a telegram to President Wilson, again asserted that he 
had received from King George an assurance of England's neutrality. 
The United States Ambassador in Berlin, Mr James Watson Gerard, 
repeated this assertion in his book My Four Tears in Germany, which 
was serialised in the Daily Telegraph in 1917. Lord Stamfordham 
immediately issued a statement that the whole story was 'absolutely 
without foundation'. 

Lord Stamfordham added that he had been unable to find among 
the King's papers, or in his diary, any detailed record of this con- 
versation. The diary merely contains the sentence c Henry of Prussia 
came to see me early: he returns at once to Germany 8 . But there does 
exist in the Royal Archives" a half sheet of notepaper on which the 
King recorded (possibly some time after the event) his own version 
of the interview: 

'Prince Henry of Prussia came to see me on Sunday July 26 at 9.30 
a.m. and asked me if there was any news. I said the news was very bad 
& it looked like a European war & that he better go back to Germany 


word of a King *9*4 

at once. He said he would go down to Eastbourne to see his sister 
(Queen of Greece) & he would return to Germany that evening. He 
then asked what England would do if there was a European war. I 
said 'I don't know what we shall do, we have no quarrel with anyone 
& I hope we shall remain neutral. But if Germany declared war on 
Russia, & France joins Russia, then I am afraid we shall be dragged 
into it. But you can be sure that I & my Government will do all we 
can to prevent a European war! 9 He then said 'Well, if our two 
countries shall be fighting on opposite sides, I trust that it will not 
affect our own personal friendship 9 . He then shook hands & left the 
room, having been with me about eight minutes. 9 

Prince Henry, in after years, himself admitted that, in the ex- 
citement of the moment, he may well have interpreted as a definite 
assurance what was no more than an incidental expression of an 
anxious hope. 1 The German Emperor's impulsive distortion of King 
George's words did not, however, affect the situation either one way 
or the other. The armies were already moving towards the frontiers: 
already the die had been cast. 

From July 31 onwards the telegrams poured in upon Buckingham 
Palace. That evening a letter was brought from Paris by the hand of 

1 The story was revived in 1938 when Captain Erich von Muller (who 
had been a German Naval Attach^ in London in 1914) wrote a letter to 
the Deutsche Allgemeine %ntung to the effect that King George had un- 
questionably assured Prince Henry that England would remain neutral. 
Lord Wigram, thereupon, sent a letter to The Times newspaper refuting 
this statement. This evoked a letter to Lord Wigram from Dr Kurt Jagow, 
Archivist to the Hohenzollern family, expressing full agreement with Lord 
Wigram's denial. 'I know 9 , wrote Dr Jagow, 'from personal knowledge of 
the statements made by the late Prince Henry that there can be no ques- 
tion of any promise on the part of His Majesty the King* (RA. Q,.25i.5. 
1 8). Dr Jagow then wrote for the Berliner Monatshefte of July 1938, an 
article disposing for ever of this legend. In this article he quoted a letter 
written by Prince Henry himself to the Sttddeutsche %eitung of December 1 1, 
1921, in which he confessed that too much emphasis had been laid on the 
words 'remain neutral 9 . 'I later discovered 9 , wrote Prince Henry, c that it 
had been represented as a promise by the King to remain neutral an 
interpretation which in no way corresponded to the facts and which I have 
myself contradicted.* 

It should be noted also that Prince Lichnowsky, in his official report 
of the conversation of July 26, merely stated that King George had ex- 
pressed to Prince Henry a desire that the crisis might be settled peaceably. 
It was the Naval Attach^ in London, who in a telegram to the German 
Admiralty, mentioned the alleged promise of neutrality. Here again is an 
instance of the Emperor's regrettable tendency to ignore the reports of 
his Ambassadors and to attach undue credit to the supplementary reports 
of the Attaches. (See the Kautsky documents, vol. I, nos. 201 and 207.) 

1914 August 4 

Monsieur William Martin in which the President of the French 
Republic urged the King that peace could only be preserved if Great 
Britain announced immediately that she was ready to enter the war 
on the side of the Entente. On August i came a telegram from the 
German Emperor, stating that he had just received *the communi- 
cation from your Government offering French neutrality under the 
guarantee of Great Britain'. He assured the King that he would 
refrain from attacking France if she offered her neutrality and if that 
neutrality were 'guaranteed by the British Fleet and Army'.* The 
reply to this fantastic proposal was drafted in pencil on a scrap of 
notepaper by the Foreign Secretary. C I think', the King answered, 
'there must be some misunderstanding of a suggestion that passed 
in friendly conversation between Prince Lichnowsky and Sir Ed- 
ward Grey.'* a In those harried days there were many such mis- 
understandings and cross-purposes. On August 3 came a telegram 
from the King of the Belgians making a 'supreme appeal' for the 
intervention of the British Government to safeguard Belgium's 
neutrality.* 6 The King 'paralysed', as Monsieur Poincar6 ob- 
served,* c by constitutional rules' could only reply to these appeals 
in terms of the most conventional sympathy. On the afternoon of 
August 3 Sir Edward Grey made his decisive speech in the House of 
Commons. From that hour, the whirlwind of clashing doubts sub- 
sided: England, after a moment of hushed awe, faced with excite- 
ment the certainty of battle: 

'Tuesday August 4th. I held a Council at 10.45. to declare war with 
Germany. It is a terrible catastrophe, but it is not our fault. An 
enormous crowd collected outside the Palace; we went on the balcony 
both before & after dinner. When they heard that war had been 
declared, the excitement increased & May & I with David went on to 
the balcony; the cheering was terrific. Please God it may soon be over 
& that he will protect dear Bertie's life. Bed at 1 2 .o.' 

Two days later, the United States Ambassador was received in 
audience. The King raised his hands in anguished despair: 'My 
God, Mr Page, what else could we do?' 




With the outbreak of war, the King is relieved of central responsibility 
The condition of public opinion in 1914 The Kong's equable 
attitude The agitation regarding Garter banners and enemy 
Princes Prince Louis of Battenberg The King objects to the 
appointment of Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord Reviews and inspec- 
tions Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales The King's concern 
with conscientious objectors and enemy prisoners The Royal 
Assent given to the Home Rule Bill The King and the Navy 
The retreat from Mons Lord Kitchener The Munitions shortage 
'The Bang's Pledge' The 'Shell Scandal' The Dardanelles 
Resignation of Lord Fisher The First Coalition Government 
Lord Haldane. 


IN dealing with the first four years of King George's reign it has been 
possible, without falsification of perspective, to describe from the 
Sovereign's own point of view the conflict between Lords and Com- 
mons and the long-drawn struggle for Home Rule. These two con- 
troversies, in that they directly affected the Royal Prerogative and 
the duties of a Constitutional Monarch, placed the King in a central 
position. With the outbreak of war he was relieved of central 
responsibility. The biographer is thus at this stage faced with a prob- 
lem of composition. If he seeks to describe the war, then his principal 
figure will immediately fade away into the clouds of battle. If, on the 
other hand, he attempts to depict the King as a symbolic leader, 
raising his baton against a background of fleets and armies, then the 
focus of the picture will be incorrect. The contrast, moreover, be- 
tween the most arduous activities of even the most eminent non- 
combatant, and the endurance of those who fought on land, at sea 
and in the air, in itself raises problems of proportion and taste. It 
has been thought preferable, therefore, in tie chapters covering the 
war, to avoid military narrative and to endeavour, by a series of 
disconnected illustrations, to suggest answers to the simple question: 
'How, during those four dark years, was the King's influence 
brought to bear?' 

The position of a Constitutional Monarch, in times of national 

The King as an example of equanimity 

strain and indignation, may become invidious. Although possessing 
no executive powers, he is credited by his people with supreme 
responsibility. Being the sole representative of the Nation as a 
whole, he may be expected, and even tempted, to voice, not merely 
the will and virtue of his subjects, but also their momentary moods 
and passions. Public opinion, it must be recalled, was less stable in 
the first than in the second war. The civilian population, faced as 
they were with the unprecedented horror of a major catastrophe, did 
not in 1914 display the same patience, charity, confidence or sense of 
proportion as were so stolidly manifested by their successors of 1939. 
In all wars rumours ramp and individuals are unjustly maligned; but 
the suspiciousness, credulity and inequity of the civilians during the 
first war were in excess of any similar emotions provoked by the even 
greater and more immediate perils of 1940. 

In private conversation King George was not wont to hide or 
understate his views; the language that he employed had about it 
the tang and exuberance of the salt sea waves. Yet in his public 
utterances he was scrupulous in avoiding anything discordant with 
the dignity of his office or out of harmony with what he believed to 
be the essential equity of the British character. His popularity grew 
from the fact that he never courted it; that he never allowed himself to 
be deflected by the transient gusts of public agitation from what, in his 
unsophisticated fashion, he felt to be just or unjust, right or wrong. 
His subjects recognised, when the skies had cleared, that throughout 
the storm he had represented and enhanced those equable qualities 
which they had assumed to be so indigenous; and had lost awhile. 

King George was not either pro-French, pro-Russian, or pro- 
German: he was undeviatingly pro-British. But it did not occur to 
him that the Germans, having become our enemies overnight, had 
suddenly ceased to be human; nor did he share the hysteria which, 
from August 1914 onwards, induced so many of his subjects to 
abandon their reason, their dignity, and their sense of fair play. 

Five days after the outbreak of hostilities, the King was surprised 
to receive from the War Office a proposal that the German Emperor 
and his son should publicly be deprived of their honorary commands 
of British regiments. He answered that their names should remain in 
the Army List until they themselves resigned. Lord Roberts was then 
brought in to persuade him to reconsider this decision. He finally 
agreed that the names should quietly be dropped from the next 
edition of the Army List, but he refused to issue any public notice to 
that effect.* A delirious agitation then arose in regard to the presence 


Garter Banners *9*4 

in St. George's Chapel at Windsor of the Garter banners of enemy 
Emperors, Kings and Princes. The King held the view that these 
banners, which were symbols of past history, should remain above 
the stalls 'at all events until after the war, when there may be other 
developments'. The matter was ventilated in the public prints and it 
was even suggested that the Chapel should be raided by patriots and 
the banners torn down by force. On the advice of the Prime Minister 
a notice was issued on May 13, 1915, to the effect that the names of 
the eight enemy Knights of the Garter had been struck off the roll of 
the Order. On the same day the banners were quietly removed. The 
King insisted, however, that the brass plates bearing the names and 
titles of these foreign potentates should remain affixed to their stalls. 
'They are', Lord Stamfordham wrote to the Dean of Windsor, 
'historical records and His Majesty does not intend to have any of 
them removed. 5 6 The King 9 , he explained, 'was not inspired by a 
desire for any dramatic action and, had it not been for a somewhat 
hysterical clamour headed by Mr Bottomley in the columns of John 
Bull and by the Daily Mail for the instant removal of the banners, 
they would probably by the King's orders have been in due course 
unostentatiously taken down.' 

An agitation then arose regarding the position of those foreign 
Princes who were still technically members of the British Royal 
House. Questions were asked in the House of Commons. The King 
held the view that such matters were 'too petty and undignified' to 
occupy the attention of Parliament at the outset of a dangerous war. 
Mr Asquith felt however that the clamour thus artificially instigated 
must in some manner be allayed. He appointed a committee of the 
House of Lords, under the chairmanship of Lord Bryce, to investigate 
the position of these foreign Princes. The agitation then subsided: 
but it had occasioned harm. 1 

More important in their consequences, and much more painful 
to the King, were the attacks made in the Globe and other news- 
papers upon Prince Louis of Battenberg, the First Sea Lord. It was 
with deep regret that Mr Winston Churchill, First Lord of the 

1 The report of the Bryce Committee led to the introduction of the 
Titles Deprivation Act of 191 7. This Act provided that a Committee of the 
Privy Council should make recommendations which should become law 
after lying on the tables of both Houses for forty days. The Committee did 
not table its recommendations until August 1918 when they recorded that 
the Duke of Cumberland, the Duke of Brunswick and Viscount Taaffe 
(Baron of Ballymote) had adhered to the King's enemies. They were 
deprived of their titles by Order in Council dated March 1919. 

1914 The appointment of Lord Fisher 

Admiralty, was obliged to accept the resignation of this gifted sailor. 
The mortification felt by Mr Churchill at having thus to surrender 
to popular clamour, was in later years mitigated by the fact that he 
was able, during the second war, to provide Prince Louis' son, Lord 
Mountbatten, with opportunities for high achievement. At the time, 
the necessity was insuperable and harsh; it also raised in urgent form 
the problem of Prince Louis' successor. The King was obliged to con- 
done what amounted to the dismissal of a man whose capacity and 
character he much admired. He was at the same time constrained to 
assent to the appointment as Prince Louis' successor of a veteran 
admiral in whose judgement he placed little reliance. The anxiety 
caused to him by this episode is reflected in his diary: 

6 October 29, 1914. Spent a most worrying and trying day. ... At 1 1.30 
saw Winston Churchill who informed me that Louis of Battenberg had 
resigned his appt. as ist Sea Lord. The Press & Public have said so 
many things against him being born a German, & that he ought not to 
be at the head of the Navy, that it was best for him to go. I feel deeply 
for him: there is no more loyal man in the Country. 

Churchill then proposed that Lord Fisher shd. succeed him as 
ist Sea Lord. I did all I could to prevent it & told him he was' not 
trusted by the Navy & they had no confidence in him personally. I 
think it is a great mistake & he is 74. At the end I had to give in with 
great reluctance. . . . 

At 3.15. 1 saw the Prime Minister. I used the same arguments as I 
had to Churchill with regard to Fisher, but had to approve. At 4.0 I 
saw poor Louis, very painful interview, he quite broke down. I told 
him I would make him a Privy Councillor to show the confidence I had 
in him, which pleased him. 

October 30. Received Lord Fisher (whom I had not met for six years) on 
his appt. as ist Sea Lord. He is now 74. He seems as young as ever. I 
only trust he will do well at Admiralty.' 

A more extended account of this episode is contained in a 
Memorandum by Lord Stamfordham. c The King appealed to the 
Prime Minister to prevent the appointment of Lord Fisher: 

'His Majesty knew the Navy and considered that the Service distrusts 
Lord Fisher & that the announcement of the proposed appointment 
would give a shock to the Navy which no one could wish to cause in the 
middle of this great war. It was also stated that Lord Fisher had aged. 
He talked & wrote much, but his opinions changed from day to day. 
Mr. Asquith said that he had never heard this before. 

The Prime Minister replied that he gathered from the First Lord 
that there was no one else suitable for the post. The Board was weak 
and incapable of initiative; the Navy had not fulfilled the hopes & 
expectations of the Country; anything that had been done was due to 


The King's War Services 

Mr. Churchill. Mr. Asquith believed that Lord Fisher's appointment 
would be welcomed by public opinion. . . . 

The King declared . . . that he could not oppose his Ministers in 
this selection, but felt it his duty to record his protest. The Prime 
Minister rejoined: "Perhaps a less severe term, 'misgivings', might 
be used by Your Majesty".' 

Later in the day the King signed the appointment and at the 
same time wrote as follows to Mr Asquith: 

Buckingham Palace, 
October 29, 1914. 
'Dear Prime Minister, 

Following our conversation this afternoon, I should like to note 
that, while approving the proposed appointment of Lord Fisher as 
First Sea Lord, I do so with some reluctance and misgivings. I readily 
acknowledge his great ability and administrative powers, but at the 
same time I cannot help feeling that his presence at the Admiralty will 
not inspire the Navy with that confidence which ought to exist, especi- 
ally when we are engaged in so momentous a war. I hope that my fears 
may prove groundless.' 


The King's tasks and duties as leader of an Empire at war were 
manifold and incessant. The general public were not informed of 
the ceaseless routine of labour that he underwent, since the censor 
rightly prohibited any undue references to his inspections and 
journeys. But the soldiers in training, the soldiers at the front, the 
sailors at Scapa Flow, Rosyth, Invergordon, Harwich and Dover, 
above all perhaps the workers in the munition factories, were aware 
of his constant presence among them, and came to welcome his 
animating confidence and the cheerful vigour of his discourse. It 
would be wearisome to catalogue in detail all the routine duties 
which during the war absorbed so much of the Kong's energies. A 
summary will suffice. During the fifty-one months that the war 
lasted he paid seven visits to the Grand Fleet or to the subsidiary 
naval bases; on five separate occasions he spent several days with the 
armies in France; he held 450 inspections, visited 300 hospitals and 
personally conferred some 50,000 decorations. He undertook re- 
peated tours of the industrial areas and scarcely a month passed in 
which he failed to visit some munition factory. When the bombing 
started he would drive down to the damaged areas and talk to the 
injured in the wards. No previous Monarch had entered into such 
close personal relations with so many of his subjects. 

We realise today that the First German War was divided into 

The Prince of Wales 

three periods of most unequal length. There were the first forty days 
of dangerous and rapid movement: these were succeeded by four 
sanguinary years of deadlock; and then in August 1918 came the 
final rush of unimagined victory. At the time it all seemed an un- 
broken monotone of strain and apprehension, lightened at moments 
by a few fleeting rays of success, but more often darkened by re- 
current disappointment and misfortune. King George did not 
possess a sanguine disposition; he was not the type of man who 
derives elation from the glamour or excitement of war; he was 
acutely sensitive to the squalor and wastage of battle and to the 
atrocious human suffering that it involves. c He feels profoundly', 
wrote Lord Esher,* 'every pang that war can inflict. 3 Within the 
first few weeks three members of his personal household (Lord 
Grichton, Lord John Hamilton and Lord Charles Fitzmaurice) were 
killed; at a later date Lord Stamfordham lost his only son; the 
casualty lists as they lengthened were scanned with anguish and left a 
weight of sadness in his mind. 

His two elder sons were already old enough to serve in the armed 
forces. Prince Albert was a midshipman (later a sub-lieutenant) in 
H.M.S. Collingwood of the First Battle Squadron. Although for some 
months he was absent on sick leave, owing to complications arising 
from an operation for appendicitis, he recovered in time to take part 
in the Battle of Jutland, an experience which he much enjoyed. The 
Prince of Wales presented a more complex problem. He served suc- 
cessively as A.D.G. on the personal staff of the Commander in Chief 
in France, as Staff Captain to the General Officer Commanding the 
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and as General Staff Officer to 
Lord Cavan in Italy. Lord Kitchener, with his accustomed blunt- 
ness, intimated to the Prince that, although it would not matter very 
much if he were killed or wounded, it would be extremely embarrass- 
ing if he were taken prisoner. The officers responsible for the Prince's 
safety were distressed by the ingenuity with which he would evade 
their vigilance. 'The risks 3 , one of them reported to Lord Stamford- 
ham, 'will be accentuated by H.R.H.'s enthusiasm.' Their anxieties 
were not unfounded. In September 1915 Lord Cavan, then com- 
manding the Guards Division, reported to the King* that the Prince 
had accompanied him on an inspection of the battle front at Ver- 
melles. They had left their cars under cover and walked to the 
trenches. The Germans had taken the occasion to plaster that sector 
with shrapnel. On their return to the cars they found them riddled 
with holes and the Prince's driver dead. 


The King and the Service Chiefs 1914 

The King sympathised with his eldest son's desire to visit the 
trenches, but he also understood the added anxifcty which his 
presence might give to those responsible: 

'The King 9 , wrote Lord Stamfordham to Lord Cavan' 'entirely agrees 
to the understanding that when the Prince goes up to the front under 
instruction neither you nor Gathorne Hardy will be held responsible 
for his personal safety. His Majesty realizes that Gathorne Hardy 1 
himself, acting in the spirit of the C. in C's orders, will run no un- 
necessary risks, but of course risks there must be. We can only hope 
and pray that all will be well and His Majesty feels that this change 
will be good for the Prince and also that his occasional presence for- 
ward will be appreciated by the men.* 

During the whole course of the war the King was kept very fully 
informed of events and problems on the home and battle fronts. Not 
only did he receive the regular minutes of the Cabinet and War 
Councils, not only was he in constant touch with Ministers, but the 
Commanders and their subordinates in the field would provide him 
with frequent personal information, and in addition there were the 
confidential reports addressed to him by the Viceroy, the Governors 
General overseas and the Ambassadors and Ministers at foreign 
capitals. His naval friends would write him long private letters, in 
which they described their experiences and not infrequently voiced 
their anxieties or complaints. He would read these voluminous 
documents with scrupulous care. 'The King's knowledge', recorded 
Lord Esher* 'of all the details of what goes on is remarkable, and he 
never seems to forget anything that he is told. 5 It was a relief for the 
military and naval commanders to be able, without incurring the 
reproach of professional disloyalty or political intrigue, thus to con- 
fide in the Head of their own Services, whose experience was akin to 
their own, whose judgement dependable, whose discretion absolute, 
and whose influence great. 

Apart from the official and semi-official papers which would 
reach him almost hourly in their neat red boxes, the King was 
deluged by a flood of private correspondence. His loyal subjects 
appear to have regarded him both as the arbiter of justice and the 
vehicle of bright ideas. He would receive letters, from responsible as 
well as irresponsible quarters, discoursing upon such varied themes 
as the administration of the National Relief Fund, the bad relations 

1 The Hon. John Gathorne-Hardy, Grenadier Guards, was a General 
Staff Officer at G.H.Q,. He was promoted Brigadier, General Staff, on 


1914 Protector of the unprotected 

existing between the Red Cross and the Royal Army Medical Corps, 
the alleged pro-German utterances of the Head Master of Eton, the 
conduct of the Australian troops in Cairo, the visits of society ladies 
and other tourists to Head Quarters in France, the efficiency of gas 
masks, the prices charged to our troops by French civilians, the 
iniquity of the blockade, the cowardice of the Foreign Office, the 
bombing of Belgian towns, or the preferential exchange of individual 

The King would in general instruct his secretaries to pass these 
letters on without comment to the Department concerned. Yet he 
took personal pains to investigate cases of alleged unfairness. 'One 
feels now,' wrote Lord Stamfordham to Lord Esher,* 'more than 
ever, that if an injustice is done, or likely to be done, to an Officer 
in the Army, His Majesty is the proper person to look into the sub- 
ject. 5 He was constantly concerned with the treatment of prisoners 
of war, whether in England or Germany. 

'His Majesty', wrote Lord Stamfordham to Lord Kitchener on 
November 14, 1914* c feels certain that you will agree that we should 
endeavour to extend such treatment to the German officers who are 
our prisoners of war as will compare favourably with that received by 
our officers now interned in Germany. Indeed, the King would like to 
think that when this war is over it would be truly said that we had 
shown the example in generous and magnanimous consideration of our 
prisoners of war.' 

Sometimes, on his own initiative, the King would make sugges- 
tions to Ministers. He would write to the Home Secretary about the 
treatment of enemy aliens and conscientious objectors. When he 
heard that the latter were being interned at Dartmoor he com- 
manded Lord Stamfordham to state that 'His Majesty feels that their 
new condition of life will not be very different from that of imprison- 
ment'^ He suggested at an early stage of the munitions shortage 
that a larger number of women might be employed in the manufac- 
ture of shells and that Mrs Pankhurst might be found useful as a 
recruiting agent. He suggested that in winter the men at the front 
might be provided with white coats when no man's land was deep in 
snow. He would write to the Commander in Chief enquiring 
whether religious services were adequately provided for the Indian 
troops or suggesting that he should have a few Dominions Officers 
attached to his staff. He addressed frequent enquiries to the War 
Office and the Ministry of Munitions as to the progress of the 
Stokes Gun or the Tanks. His most useful function, he felt, was not 


Home Rule Bill passed 1914 

to inflict upon Ministers or commanders his own views of policy or 
strategy, but, with constant vigilance, to 'advise, to encourage and 
to warn 5 . 


The declaration of war imposed a temporary lull in party strife. 
The expected split in the Liberal Government did not occur; Lord 
Morley, John Burns and Charles Trevelyan were the only three 
Ministers to resign. On August 5 Mr John Redmond had assured the 
House of Commons that England could withdraw every man and 
gun from Ireland, since the Irish in cooperation with the Ulster 
volunteers, would themselves defend their coasts against the enemy. 
Mr Asquith was so encouraged by Mr Redmond's gesture that he 
believed that the gap left by the Buckingham Palace Conference 
might now be bridged. The Unionists insisted however that the 
Home Rule Bill must be postponed until the end of the war. The 
King 9 , record Mr Asquith's biographers,* c again offered his services 
to procure accommodation and commented with some severity upon 
the obstinacy of politicians who prolonged these recriminations in a 
time of national crisis.' The Prime Minister felt obliged to place 
the Home Rule Bill upon the statute book, accompanying it with 
assurances to Ulster and a pledge that Home Rule would not come 
into operation while the war lasted. The Unionists represented this 
action as a breach of his pledge not to introduce controversial 
legislation in war-time. In spite of their indignation, the Royal 
Assent was given to the Home Rule Bill on September 17, 1914. 

Meanwhile the King had been much encouraged by the in- 
stantaneous offers of help received from the Dominions and India. 
The Viceroy had assured him that there was 'no cause for anxiety 
anywhere 3 . *In fact/ wrote Lord Hardinge 1 c a wave of loyalty has 
been spread throughout the land and everybody is vying with each 
other to help England in this emergency. 5 

The Fleet, after the test mobilisation of July, had, thanks to 
Mr Churchill's audacious initiative, been kept in being. On the night 
of July 29-30 the \vhole Navy passed silently and with darkened 
lights through the Straits of Dover and by the next day had reached 
their battle stations facing Germany. The Grand Fleet, under the 
command of Sir John Jdlicoe, 1 was stationed in the northern 

^ The Board of Aclmiralty, on August 2, had appointed Sir John 
Jellicoe to succeed Sir George Callaghan, whose health was deemed 


igi4 jvaval misfortunes 

approaches, the battleships at Scapa Flow and Cromarty, the battle 
cruisers at Rosyth. On August 5 the King addressed the following 
signal to Sir John Jellicoe: 

'At this grave moment of our national history I send to you, and 
through you to the officers and men of the Fleets of which you have 
assumed command, the assurance of my confidence that, under your 
direction, they will revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy 
and prove once again the sure shield of Britain and of her Empire in 
the hour of trial. 5 

A series of misfortunes followed. On August 10 the German 
battle cruiser Goeben, accompanied by the light cruiser Breslau, 
having evaded the vigilance of our admirals, steamed almost un- 
molested into the Dardanelles and thereby determined Turkey's 
entry into the war against us. On September 21 the three cruisers 
Hague, Cressy and AbouJtir, were sunk by U-boat 49 and on October 27 
it was learnt that the super-dreadnought Audacious had struck a mine 
and foundered off Lough Swilly. On November i Rear Admiral Sir 
Christopher Craddock (who but a few weeks before had written to 
the King: *I know, Sir, you will grant us latitude. In time we must 
succeed' m ) encountered off Gorond a superior German squadron 
under Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee and the Monmouth and the Good 
Hope were sunk with all hands. It was not until December 8 that this 
defeat was avenged by Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee's victory 
of the Falkland Islands. Yet the efiect on British opinion of that 
decisive action, which in fact cleared the seven seas of all German 
detached squadrons, was damped by the German raid on the York- 
shire coast on December 16: 

'Yesterday morning, 5 the King wrote indignantly in his diary, c four 
large German cruisers, it being foggy, appeared off the east coast of 
Yorkshire about 8.0 o'clock, & shelled Hartlepool & Scarborough for 
40 minutes, doing considerable damage, killing about 40 women, 
children & civilians and maiming & wounding about 400. This is 
German, kultotr. 9 

The British public, who had assumed that our Fleets would be 
immediately victorious everywhere, were disconcerted by these mis- 
fortunes. They did not understand the nature of modern sea-power 

unequal to the impending task. The King and Mr. Churchill both felt 
extremely sorry for Admiral Callaghan, 'Received Sir George Callaghan/ 
the King wrote in his diary for August 10, *a painful interview, as he has 
just been superseded by Jellicoe in command of the Home Fleet, as he is 
considered too old (62) & not equal to the strain. I think he has been very 
badly treated.* 

i 257 

The Retreat from Mons 
or realise that it was the slow stranglehold which the Navy obtained 
over Germany that more than any other factor won the war. The 
King, whose devotion to his old profession was passionate and even 
blind, was distressed by these misconceptions. Yet by the end of 1914 
the war at sea had become comparatively stabilised. The German 
High Seas Fleet remained behind the protection of their minefields; 
their excursions thereafter were short and rare. 

Between August 12 and August 17 the British Expeditionary 
Force of five divisions had been safely transported to France. On 
August 24 at Mons our armies encountered the first full impact of 
the enemy. c lt was', writes Sir Duff Cooper,* 'nothing less than the 
clenched fist of the huge German Army that struck the five divisions 
of the Expeditionary Force full in the face.' The retreat began. 
Within the space of thirteen days, our troops, fighting continual 
rearguard actions, retired a distance of one hundred and sixty miles. 

Lord Kitchener, when on the point of returning to Egypt, had 
been hastily recalled to London and appointed Secretary of State for 
War. He was much perturbed by the reports received from Sir John 
French, the Commander in Chief. 1 C I do not', he wrote to Lord 
Stamfordham on August 25, Tike these retirements. Unless Joffre 
can take the offensive,' the left flank may be badly turned before we 
can act effectively.' On August 30 Sir John French, writing from 
Compi^gne, informed Lord Kitchener that he proposed to withdraw 
the British armies behind the Seine, leaving Paris on his right flank. 
The Cabinet, realising that this further retreat would create a 
perilous gap between the British and French armies, sent Lord 
Kitchener to France with instructions to persuade the Commander 
in Chief to remain in the battle line. The interview between the two 
soldiers took place in the British Embassy in Paris. Lord Kitchener 
succeeded in convincing Sir John French that it was essential for him 
to maintain contact with his allies. This interview, although it con- 
tributed substantially to the victory of the Maine, did not improve 
the personal relations between the Commander in Chief (who was of 

1 Sir John French (1852-1925) had commanded the Cavalry Division 
in the South African War and acquired fame owing to his relief of Kim- 
berley and capture of Bloemfontein. He was Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff 1912-1914 and appointed Commander in Chief of the Expeditionary 
Force in August 1914. On his resignation in December 1915 he was raised 
to the peerage as Viscount French of Yprcs. Until May 1918 he was 
C. in C. Home Forces and then became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He 
resigned in 1921 and was given an earldom. 


The Battle of the Marne 

a sensitive disposition) 1 and the Secretary of State for War. The 
King, whose confidence in Lord Kitchener was greater than that 
which he reposed in Sir John French, was, in the months that fol- 
lowed, much concerned with this divergence. 

Meanwhile Russian armies under Rennenkampf and Samsonov 
had invaded East Prussia. Although by August 30 these armies had 
been annihilated by Hindenburg and Ludendorff at the battle of 
Tannenberg, the German High Command had been so alarmed by 
the invasion that they had withdrawn two army corps from the 
Western front. General von Kluck, commanding the First German 
Army, hoping by a rapid lunge to separate and destroy the French 
and British, wheeled prematurely inwards and exposed his flank. 
General Joffre, much assisted by the intuition of General Galli&ri, 
was quick to detect this error. On the morning of September 5 he 
decided that the retreat should go no further and that the French and 
British armies should assume the offensive on the following day. 
'The terrible period of retirement is ended/ wrote Sir John French 
to the King on September 5,* c and an advance, in which we must in 
a day or two battle with the enemy on a very large scale, begins at 
day-break tomorrow. 9 

The victory of the Marne was 'not a miracle, but a brilliant 
advantage snatched from the enemy's errors'.* It destroyed all 
German hopes of reaching a quick decision in the west. Thereafter 
came the Aisne, the first Battle of Ypres and what is known as 'the 
rush to the sea*. 'The Battle of the Aisne', Sir John French wrote to 
the King on October 2, r c is very typical of what battles in the future 
are most likely to resemble. Siege operations will enter largely into 
tactical problems and the spade will be as great a necessity as the 
rifle.' This was an understatement Already by September 14, 1914, 
the four years of trench deadlock had begun. 


During his first visit to the front in December 1914 the King held 
long conversations with President Poincar, c who made himself most 
agreeable & is very optimistic about the war, as are Generals Joffre 
& French*. King George did not share this optimism. He had been 

1 'He is*, wrote Lord Esher to Lord Stamfordham in December 1916 
(Journals and Letters of Lord Esher, Vol. IV, page 79), 'not an intriguer, but 
just a passionate little man with, as you say, hot temper and uncontrolled 
feelings. Anyone can work him up into a sort of mad suspicion, so that he 
falls an easy prey to the people around him.* 

Lord Kitchener 

warned by Lord Kitchener, whose word he trusted, that the war 
was bound to last for several years. The Secretary of State for War 
had realised from the outset that the plan devised by the Committee 
of Imperial Defence and elaborated in exact detail by Lord Haldane 
would prove inadequate for the necessities of a prolonged con- 
tinental campaign. He immediately set himself to the task of creating 
a British Army of seventy divisions, the maximum strength of which, 
he calculated, would be reached in the third year of war. Three 
million men responded to his appeal for volunteers : 

'No one but Lord Kitchener 9 , wrote Sir Edward Grey in retrospect,* 
'measured the dimensions of the war with such prescience. . . . Without 
that contribution, the war might have been lost, or victory rendered 
impossible.' ' 

The efficacy of Lord Kitchener's genius was diminished by cer- 
tain defects of experience and temperament. He had been so used to 
reserve for himself the sole decision in administrative matters that he 
did not understand the division of departmental responsibility or 
even the delegation of business. When expounding in Cabinet his 
plans or policy he adopted so stilted a posture that he conveyed the 
impression (and it was not always a false impression) that he dis- 
trusted the discretion of his colleagues and was withholding essential 
facts. Nor was he receptive of new ideas. 'Move his mind', wrote 
Lord Haldane,* *on to modern lines I could not.' His colleagues in 
Cabinet were at first overawed by the magnificence of Lord 
Kitchener's appearance and by the glamour of his public prestige. 
He was in truth a formidable figure. His vast stature, the slow con- 
gested movements of his body, face and mind, suggested an enormous 
and resplendent monolith. Even the least impressionable of Ministers 
could be cowed by the stare of affronted anger, or incomprehension, 
in those blue but disparate eyes. "The members of the Cabinet', Mr 
Lloyd George has admitted, 'were frankly intimidated by his 
presence/ u 

It was only gradually that Lord Kitchener's dominance de- 
dined. His colleagues became increasingly irritated by his refusals to 
explain his departmental brief. He possessed no gift for exposition or 
argument. 'Neither his words nor his pen', writes his official bio- 
grapher,* Vere a rapid or wholly effective vehicle for his thoughts.' 

Only with the King and the Prime Minister did Lord Kitchener 
fed wholly at his ease. Mr Asquith, who did not place garrulity 
among the highest of human endowments, wdcomed his inarticulate 

Shell shortage 

stolidity. The King, who had known Lord Kitchener for thirty years, 
regarded him with affection and esteem. He created him a Knight of 
the Garter and placed York House at his disposal as a private resi- 
dence. The King', Lord Esher recorded," 'said that whatever 

happened he meant to support Lord K He complained only of 

one fault in the Secretary of State for War. It was that Lord K. was 
so voluble that he, the King, could never get a word in edgeways. 5 
A more intimate tribute to the relations of mutual trust existing 
between them is contained in a letter written to the King by Sir 
George Arthur a few days only after Lord Kitchener's death:* 

'How often Sir George Arthur has heard Lord Kitchener say that the 
King's unstinted and unswerving support enabled him (and perhaps 
alone enabled him) to cany into being the vast military scheme of 
which the fulfilment was accomplished the very day on which the wise 
and faithful servant of the King was called home.' 

On March 13, 1915, after the battle of Neuve Chapelle, Sir John 
French reported that his armies were short of shells, especially of 
high explosives. 1 The Prime Minister decided, in spite of Lord 
Kitchener's objections, to constitute a Munitions of War Committee 
under the chairmanship of Mr Lloyd George. Into this new channel 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer diverted the cataract of his stupen- 
dous energy. For the moment he was unable to do much more than 
place advance orders and plan for future expansion; the full effect of 
his vitality and vision was not felt until the following May, when he 
was appointed Minister of Munitions in the Coalition Government. 

One of Mr Lloyd George's first preoccupations was the condition 
of Labour. He was particularly distressed by the suggestion that full 
employment and high wages were leading to increased drinking 
among the working classes. The French and Russians had prohibited 
the sale of absinthe and vodka. Why should not we make an even 
more glorious .gesture by imposing total prohibition? What was 
needed was a dramatic example. Who more fit to set this example 
than the King himself? 

Mr Lloyd George, when in crusading mood, was irresistible. On 
March 29, 1915, he bustled into the King's audience room, his little 
arms swinging with excitement, his eyes flashing flame, his lower lip 
protruding with scorn of those who drank. The King was affected by 

1 In the whole of the South African War 273,000 rounds had been 
fired. One million rounds were expended in the first six months of the 
1914-1918 war. By November 1916 the consumption rose to 1,120,000 a 


The King's pledge 1915 

his enthusiasm. The next morning he instructed Lord Stamfordham 
to write to Mr Lloyd George:" 

c His Majesty feels that nothing but the most vigorous measures will 
successfully cope with the grave situation now existing in our Arma- 
ment factories. ... If it be deemed advisable, the King will be pre- 
pared to set an example by giving up all alcoholic liquor himself and 
issuing orders against its consumption in the Royal Household, so 
that no difference shall be made, so far as His Majesty is concerned, 
between the treatment of rich and poor in this question.* 

Mr Lloyd George replied the same day, stating that the Cabinet 
had been much gratified by the King's offer and adding that if His 
Majesty's resolve could be made public he was certain that 'all 
classes would hasten to follow the lead thus given by the Sovereign'. * 
A notice was therefore published that as from April 6 no alcohol 
would be absorbed by the Royal Family or Household: 

This morning,' the King wrote in his diary, 'we have all become 
teetotallers until the end of the war. I have done it as an example, as 
there is a lot of drinking going on in the country. I hate doing it, but 
hope it will do good.' 

The 'King's Pledge', as it came to be called, did not arouse the 
response which Mr Lloyd George anticipated. Very few of his sub- 
jects followed his example; the House of Commons rejected with 
sturdy indignation any suggestion of teetotalism. Mr Lloyd George's 
crusade left His Majesty and his Household high and dry. 1 


On May 9, 1915 Sir John French had watched the abortive 
battle of Festubert from the top of a ruined church tower and had 
decided then and there to launch a 'shell shortage' campaign.*-* He 
invited the assistance of Colonel Repington, the military corres- 
pondent of The Times, and despatched to London a secretary and an 
aide de camp with instructions to inform and incite Lord Northcliffe 
and certain members of the Opposition. On May 21, in the Daily 
Mail, there appeared a leading article under the headlines "The 
Tragedy of the Shells. Lord Kitchener's Grave Error'. The Prime 

1 After the King's serious accident at the front in October 1915, his 
doctors insisted that the pledge should at least temporarily be suspended. 
A bulletin was issued above the signatures of Sir Frederick Treves and 
Sir Bertrand Dawson informing the public that it was 'necessary on 
medical grounds that the King should take a little stimulant daily during 
his convalescence. As soon as the King's health is quite restored, His 
Majesty will resume the total abstinence which he has imposed upon him- 
self for public reasons*. 

1915 Resignation of Lord Fisher 

Minister could not remain indifferent to this campaign against Lord 
Kitchener, since he was well aware that the shortage of munitions 
would be exploited by the Unionist Party with devastating effect. 
His administration had moreover been shaken by other mis- 

The naval attack on the Dardanelles had been broken off on the 
evening of March 18, 1915. The Turks, as is now known, had by 
then almost run out of ammunition; had the attack been resumed on 
March 19, it might well have succeeded. "Not to persevere/ com- 
mented Mr Churchill, that was the crime. 5 ** Meanwhile Lord 
Kitchener had reluctantly agreed to send troops under Sir Ian 
Hamilton to occupy the Gallipoli peninsula. The Turks, under the 
able direction of Liman von Sanders, exploited the pause that fol- 
lowed. Thus when the troops eventually landed on April 25 they 
were faced with what Sir Ian Hamilton described as c a regular 
Gibraltar 9 . They failed to reach their objectives and here again a long 
period of trench deadlock settled in. 

Lord Fisher, in the War Council, had adopted a sphinx-like 
attitude towards the Dardanelles operations. He contended later 
that he had considered it improper to contradict the First Lord in 
the presence of his colleagues. So soon as the landings had proved 
abortive, he decided to disengage his responsibility. On May 15, on a 
minor issue, he sent in his resignation and informed Mr Churchill 
that he was leaving at once for Scotland. The Prime Minister then 
conveyed to him a letter, summoning him e in the King's name' to 
return to his post. Lord Fisher replied by tabulating the conditions 
on which he would consent to withdraw his resignation. He de- 
manded, among other things, 'complete professional charge of the 
war at sea, together with absolute sole disposition of the Fleet and the 
appointment of all Officers of all ranks whatsoever and absolutely 
untrammelled command of all the sea forces whatsoever*. In com- 
municating this paper to the King, Mr Asquith remarked that it 
'indicated signs of mental aberration'.*-' 1 Lord Fisher's resignation was 
accepted on May 22. 

The King was shocked by Lord Fisher's attitude and by the 
abrupt abandonment of his post at a moment when it was believed 
that the German Fleet was about to put to sea. He was in no sense 
mollified by the excited explanations which Lord Fisher thereafter 
addressed to him from his retreat in Scotland. Meanwhile Mr As- 
quith had been informed by Mr Bonar Law that the Opposition 
intended to raise the question of Lord Fisher's resignation in the 


The First Coalition 

House of Commons. The Liberal Government might have resisted 
the 'shell scandal 5 and the crisis at the Admiralty if these strains had 
occurred separately; coming together, they were more than any 
administration could withstand. On May 17 Mr Asquith informed 
Lord Stamfordham that he had come to the conclusion that the 
Government must be Reconstructed on a broad and non-party basis'. 
On May 22 the King saw the Prime Minister and urged him, when 
forming his new Cabinet, to create a separate Ministry of Munitions 
under Mr Lloyd George and thus relieve Lord Kitchener *of all work 
and responsibility in regard to ammunition'.*** On the evening of 
May 24 Mr Asquith was able to submit to the King the names of the 
First Coalition Government. 1 

'There were', wrote Mr Asquith in after years/-* 'two concessions of a 
personal kind which were insisted on by Mr Bonar Law and his friends 
and which I made with the greatest reluctance. One was the substitu- 
tion of another Lord Chancellor for Lord Haldane, against whom, on 
the strength of his having once referred to Germany as "his spiritual 
home", there had been started one of those fanatical and malignant 
outcries which from time to time disgrace our national character. The 
other was the transfer of Mr Churchill from the Admiralty, where he 
was to be succeeded by Mr Balfour, to an inferior office in the Cabinet.' 

Sir Edward Grey also was outraged by Lord Haldane's dis- 
missal. He regretted ever after that he had not at the time himself 
resigned in protest c The thing*, he wrote, 'left a scar.' 

The King received Lord Haldane on May 26 and personally con- 
ferred upon him the Order of Merit. 2 

1 The main posts in the First Coalition Government were distributed as 
follow: Prime Minister, Mr Asquith: Lord Chancellor, Sir S. Buckmaster: 
Lord President, Lord Crewe: Lord Privy Seal, Lord Curzon: Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, Mr McKenna: Secretaries of State Home, Sir J. 
Simon: Foreign, Sir Edward Grey: War, Lord Kitchener: Colonies, Mr 
Bonar Law: India, Mr Austen Chamberlain: Minister of Munitions, Mr 
Lloyd George: First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr Balfour: President of the 
Board of Trade, Mr Runciman: President of the Local Government 
Board, Mr Long: Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr Birrell: Attorney- 
General, Sir E. Carson: Board of Education, iMr Henderson: Chancellor 
of the Duchy, Mr Churchill. 

2 It was characteristic of the King that he never forgot, when oppor- 
tunity offered, to redress an injustice which the political necessity of the 
moment had obliged him to condone. In November 1918, when victory 
had at last been achieved, Lord Stamfordham wrote to Lord Haldane: 
*The King directs me to tell you how deeply he appreciates all you have 
done to make our victory possible and how silly he thought the outcrv 
against you. 5 




The misfortunes of 1915 Sir John French The King's accident in 
France Sir Douglas Haig becomes Commander in Chief The 
King's visits to munition factories The Military Service Bill The 
misfortunes of 1916 Air-raids The King's attitude towards 
reprisals Conscription becomes inevitable Lloyd George and 
Bonar Law threaten to resign The King's influence is invoked 
Parliament accepts compulsory service The Easter rising in Dublin 
The King's relations with Sir Douglas Haig The King and the 
Navy The Battle of Jutland Sir David Beatty succeeds Sir John 
Jdlicoe Foreign Affairs The struggle between King Constantine 
and M. Venizelos. 

6 THE year 1915', comments Mr Churchill, 'was disastrous to the 
cause of the Allies and the whole world. . . . Thereafter the fire 
roared until it had burnt itself out.' In the West, successive allied 
attacks were repulsed with heavy losses. 1 In the East, General 
Falkenhayn's break-through at Gorlice cost the Russians vast quan- 
tities of much needed munitions and two million men. General 
Gadoma's offensive on the Isonzo also failed. Our minor campaigns 
were equally unfruitful. The landing at Suvla Bay on August 8 
petered out in sullen stagnation; in December all our forces were 
withdrawn from the Dardanelles. In the Balkans, an allied attempt 
to rescue Serbia from the German onslaught came too late to affect 
the issue; by the winter the Serbian armies were straggling miserably 
through the Albanian mountains^ while the French and British forces 
were locked up at Salonika, where they remained for two and a half 
years. In Mesopotamia, General Townshend, having advanced al- 
most to within sight of Baghdad, was on December 8 surrounded by 
the Turks at Kut-d-Amara, and was forced to surrender in the 
following April. The year 1915 was thus a year of almost unrelieved 

1 The autumn offensives in Champagne and Artois cost the French and 
British armies 242,000 casualties; on the British sector alone, the Battle of 
Loos, which gained us 8,000 yards of the German trench system, lost us 
2,407 officers and 57,985 men* 

12 265 

Sir John French . *9*5 

Ever since the retreat from Mons the King had entertained 
doubts as to the suitability of Sir John French for the post of Com- 
mander in Chief. These doubts were not diminished by the part 
played by Sir John French in the campaign launched by Lord 
Northcliffe against Lord Kitchener: 

'Of course, 9 the King wrote to the Duke of Connaught on May 23, 
1915, Trench may be a good soldier, but I don't think he is particu- 
larly clever & he has an awful temper. Whether he is now suffering 
from the strain of the campaign or from swollen head I don't know, 
but he is behaving in a very odd way, which adds to my many anxieties 
I know you never had a very high opinion of him. He is also trying to 
intrigue against Kitchener with the politicians and the Press.* 

These anxieties were increased by reports the King received 
indicating that the Commander in Chief was not making any real 
effort to compose his differences with Lord Kitchener or with his 

'He has', wrote Sir William Robertson 1 to Lord Stamfordham on 
June 23, 1915, 'never really, sincerely and honestly concerted with the 
French; while they regard hi as by no means a man of ability or a 
faithful friend, and therefore they do not confide in him. Joffre and he 
have never yet been a mile within the heart of each other. Further he 
has never fiilly laid his opinions before the Government. He has too 
much taken the stand of doing as he wishes and telling the Government 
nothing. I have been very concerned about this for a long time past.* * 

Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the First British Army, although 
reticent on the subject, had been offended by the Commander in 
Chiefs failure to accord him due credit for the Battle of Neuve 
Chapelle, and was even more indignant when, at Loos, Sir John 
delayed until too late to send up the reserves. 

On October 21 the King left for his second visit to the armies in 

1 Sir William Robertson (1860-1933) had enlisted as a private in the 
1 6th Lancers in 1877. He was granted a commission in 1888. He passed 
through the Staff College in 1898* He fought with Lord Roberts in South 
Africa. He became a colonel in 1903 and a major-gcnefral in 1913. In 
August 1914 he was appointed quarter-master general of the Expedi- 
tionary Force and in January 1915 Chief of the Staff to Sir John French, 
In December 1915 he was made C.I.G.S. In February 1918, owing to 
differences with Mr Lloyd George, he was transferred to the Eastern 
Command. In May of that year he succeeded Sir John French as Com- 
mander in Chief of the Home Forces, From April 1919 to March 1920 he 
commanded the British Army of Occupation in Germany. On his retire- 
ment he was promoted Field Marshal. He wrote two autobiographical 
books, From Private to Field Marshal and Soldiers tind Statesmen. 

The King's accident 

France. He stayed at the Chateau de la Jumelle at Aire. His con- 
versations with the Army Commanders convinced him that there 
must be an immediate change in the high command: 

The troops here are all right,' the King wrote to Lord Stamfordham 
on October 25,' c but I find that several of the most important Generals 
have entirely lost confidence in the C. in C. and they assured me that 
it was universal & that he must go a otherwise we shall never win this 
war. This has been my opinion for some time.' 

On October 27 these fears were confirmed by a conversation 
with Sir William Robertson. 

'Had a long serious talk', the King wrote that evening in his diary, 
'with General Robertson & he is strongly of opinion that a change 
should be made here as soon as possible. He thinks D.H. [Sir Douglas 
Haig] would be an excellent C. in C. & that he would work well with 
Joffre. Now they pay no attention to the present C. in C. & he says that 
Wilson 1 should go at once as he is not loyal.' 

On the next day, Thursday, October 28, the King drove to 
inspect the First Army at Labuissifere. From there he went to Hes- 
digneul and rode down the lines of the ist Wing, Royal Flying Corps. 
He was mounted on a chestnut mare which had been lent him by 
Sir Douglas Haig. The men raised a sudden cheer as he passed them, 
the mare reared in fright, slipped on the wet ground and fell back- 
wards with the King partially under her: 

'They picked me up*, the King dictated subsequently for his diary, e & 
took me back to Aire in the motor as quickly as possible; I suffered 

great agonies all the way During October 29, 30 and 31 I suffered 

great pain and hardly slept at all as I was so terribly bruised all over 
and also suffered very much from shock.' 

1 Sir Henry Wilson (1864-1922) entered the Rifle Brigade in 1884 and 
after rapid promotion was appointed Commandant of the Staff College in 
1906. In 1910 he became Director of Military Operations at the War 
Office and was one of the yn-ni champions of dose coordination with the 
French General Staff. To a large extent he organised and perfected the 
Expeditionary Force. In 1914 he became deputy Chief of the Staff to Sir 
John French and chief liaison officer with the French armies. In the 
autumn of 1915 he received the command of the IVth Army and in 
November 1917 was appointed British Military Representative on the 
Versailles War Council. In February 1918 he succeeded Sir William 
Robertson as C.I.G.S. He was made a Field Marshal after the armistice* 
In February 1922 he retired and offered his services to the Government of 
Northern Ireland. He was murdered by Irish gunmen in London in June 
1922. His Life and Letters were published by Major-General Sir C. E. Call- 
well in 1927. This publication was welcomed by his enemies and deplored 

by his friends. 


Sir John French resigns 19/5 

On November i the King was carried on a stretcher to the ambu- 
lance train for Boulogne, where he was placed on board the hospital 
ship Anglia. He reached Buckingham Palace in a state of exhaustion: 

"The injuries', wrote his physician, Sir Bertrand Dawson,* 'were more 
serious than could then be disclosed. Besides the widespread and severe 
bruising, the pelvis was fractured in at least two places and the pain 
was bad, the subsequent shock considerable, and convalescence 
tedious ---- How well I remember that insistant urging of G.H.Q. 
that we should get the King to England before the Germans had time 
to bomb the house, indifferently sheltered in a small wood, and how 
we insisted we must wait until there had been some recovery from the 
shock and time enough to know there were no internal injuries. And 
then the Channel crossing when he did go the worst possible. The 
sea-sickness with that injured and bruised frame meant bad pain for 
him and anxiety for us.' 

It was four weeks before the King was able to hobble with two 
sticks along the balcony outside his bedroom. Those closest to him 
realised thereafter that he was never quite the same man again. 

On November 12, 1915 Lord Kitchener left England to report on 
the evacuation of Gallipoli and the general situation in the Near East 
and Egypt. His colleagues cherished the "mute hope 9 that he would 
remain abroad. Mr Asquith, who had discussed the matter fully with 
the King, decided that the moment had come to secure Sir John 
French's retirement. He therefore despatched Lord Esher to General 
Headquarters, hoping that this tactful emissary might induce the 
Commander in Chief to resign spontaneously. Lord Esher found on 
his arrival that Sir John French was inclined to 'show fight'. The 
King was opposed to any further delay: 

'As to Sir John French/ Lord Stamfordham wrote to the 
Minister on December 2, 6 the King thinks that you have shown him 
every consideration, both in the manner by which you endeavoured to 
arrange his resignation and also respecting the conditions you offered 
with a view to making the suggested course as easy and acceptable as 
possible to him. But, in His Majesty's opinion, Sir John is not treating 
you with similar regard. He therefore hopes that you will now ask Sir 
John to give effect to the suggestion conveyed to hiV nearly a week ago 
through a mutual friend, in which His Majesty understood he ex- 
pressed his willingness to acquiesce. Moreover the King feds that 
General Headquarters should not be left much longer without a 

Four days later Mr Asquith wrote to the King saying that he had 
received from Sir John French a letter tendering his resignation and 


1915 The King and the Munition workers 

that he proposed to accept the offer. Sir John French was created a 
Viscount and given command of the Home Forces. Sir Douglas Haig 
was appointed Commander in Chief in his place. 


With the active encouragement of Mr Lloyd George, the King, 
on recovering from his accident, devoted much of his time to proving 
to the munition workers that their services were regarded by the 
country as of an importance equal to those of the men in the armies 
and fleets: 

'The story', writes Mr Lloyd George/ 'of the steps taken to organize 
labour for the munition factories, and to induce them to put forward 
their best efforts and submit to control and the suspension of cherished 
trade union regulations and practices, would not be complete without 
a tribute to the vitally important help rendered by the King to the 
nation by heartening and encouraging the munition workers and those 
who were creating the district organizations. It would be hard to over- 
estimate the value of the national service rendered by the Sovereigns 
visits to munition areas and the personal relations he established with 
the workers there. . . . Nothing could be happier than the spontaneous 
resolve of the King to go about among them, to shake them by the 
hand, talk with them, and make a direct appeal to their patriotism 
and citizenship. . . . 

From the Clyde the King went to the Tyne, where he also spent 
two days, and spoke personally with a number of foremen and workers 
in the armament works and shipyards. ... He thanked the workmen 
in a speech for what had been done, but urged that more was still 
required. He voiced the hope that "all restrictive rules and regulations 
would be removed, and that all would work to one common end and 
purpose". This was a courageous gesture on the Kong's part to hdp 
forward the solution of the very difficult problem of suspending the 
trade union restrictions which at the time were seriously hampering 
output. He moved among the workers, chatting freely with them. He 
picked out one worker, at Sheffield, whom he recognised as having 
served with him when he was a midshipman in H.M.S. Bacchante. He 
watched another making shells and remarked to him: "I am glad you 
realize the importance of the work in hand. Without an adequate 
supply of shells we cannot hope to win". Words like these, uttered 
"man to man" by the Head of the State to the artisan, naturally ran 
like wildfire through the works. It was this directness of personal con- 
tact, free from pomp or any trace of arrogance of aloofness, which 
made the King's visit to the munition areas such a valuable aid in the 
task of raising the worker's enthusiasm and breaking through the 
reluctance to accept new methods and regulations.' 

Meanwhile the ever-increasing demand for the imposition of 


Compulsory Service 
compulsory military service was creating a conflict within the 
Cabinet. Up till July 1915 Lord Kitchener had been able to secure 
by voluntary enlistment as many men as, at that date, he could equip 
or train. He foresaw that future requirements would necessitate more 
drastic measures. On July 5, 1915, was passed the National Registra- 
tion Act, by which a precise inventory was taken of the manpower 
resources of the country. On August 24 an informal conference was 
held at Buckingham Palace to consider whether, and if so when and 
how, compulsion should be introduced: 

'I went to see the King,' recorded Mr Asquith,* 'and was joined at the 
Palace by Kitchener, Balfour and Edward Grey. We four sat in con- 
clave with the Sovereign on the subject of compulsion for nearly two 
hours: a very unusual proceeding. What, of course, affects him most 
is, not the abstract merits of the question, but the growing division of 
opinion and the prospect of a possible political row.' 

As a temporary palliative, and with the unavowed purpose of 
convincing the dissident Liberals and the Labour leaders that con- 
scription was now inevitable, the 'Derby scheme 9 was promulgated on 
October 23 together with a Proclamation issued in the King's name. 
Under this scheme men were asked to 'attest 3 their willingness to 
serve when wanted and were classified in twenty-three groups 
according to age, status and occupation. When launching the Derby 
"scheme, the Prime Minister undertook that married men would not 
be called up until all the unmarried had been taken; and he promised 
that, if sufficient unmarried men failed to volunteer, a Compulsion 
Bill would be introduced. By the end of 1915 there were still more 
than a million bachelors who had failed to attest. Mr Asquith judged 
that he must now redeem his promise and apply compulsion to these 
recalcitrants* A Military Service Bill was therefore drafted, under 
which all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 would be com- 
pelled to attest. This Bill provoked what the King had most dreaded, 
a serious split within the ranks of the Liberal Government. 

Sir John Simon, being in principle opposed to any form of com- 
pulsion, resigned his post as Home Secretary, Mr McKenna, the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, also threatened resignation, on the 
ground that the finances of the country could not afford so large an 
increase of the armed forces. Mr Runciman took a similar line, 
contending that our export trade would suffer if so many young men 
were withdrawn from industry. To the Prime Minister's dismay, Sir 
Edward Grey unexpectedly ranged himself with Mr McKenna and 

Growing anxiety 

The King, who had gone to Sandringham for Christmas, im- 
mediately returned to London and received the Prime Minister at 
Buckingham Palace on the morning of December 30. He assured 
Mr Asquith that e he would stand by him and support him, even if all 
his colleagues were to leave 5 .* Thus fortified, Mr Asquith was able to 
induce Sir Edward Grey, Mr McKenna and Mr Runciman to 
remain in the Cabinet. Only Sir John Simon insisted on resigning. 

The Military Service Bill was then accepted by the Cabinet and 
became law on January 27, 1916. But this, as will be seen, was not 
the final settlement. 

The year 1916 was one of ever-increasing strain, danger and dis- 
appointment. On February 21 the Germans opened their attack 
upon the fortress of Verdun; on April 24 occurred the Easter rising 
in Dublin; on June i came the terrible communiqu6 announcing our 
losses in the Battle of Jutland; on June 5 Lord Kitchener was 
drowned; on July i opened the long ordeal of the Somme; the dis- 
missal of M. Sazonov on July 23 and his replacement by the pro- 
German Stiirmer raised the spectre of a separate Russian peace; in 
August Rumania entered the war, only to be crushed within four 
months by Mackensen and Falkenhayn; the repulse with terrible 
losses of General Brusilov's offensive in September brought the 
gloomy conviction that the Russian armies would be incapable of 
any major operations in future; and the Franco-British forces at 
Salonika remained impotent spectators of the ever-increasing 
exploitation by Germany of Turkey and the Balkans as of the internal 
battle between King Constantine and M. Venizelos. The ordinary 
citizen alarmed by the mounting casualty lists, apprehensive of the 
U-boat menace, inconvenienced by air-raids arid food shortages, 
unable to understand the hesitation of the Foreign Office either to 
grasp the Greek nettle or to risk antagonising the United States by 
an unrestricted application of the blockade came to suspect that 
some secret influence was paralysing all our energies; rumours began 
to circulate as to the presence of c a hidden hand 5 . It is to the credit 
of the public that they should have spurned with such unanimity 
the peace offers which in December 1916 were dangled before their 
exhausted eyes. But it is not surprising that, in the same month, they 
should have insisted, with almost equal unanimity, on a change in 
the supreme direction of the war. 

Ever since, in September 1914, he had been warned by the Prime 


German submarine prisoners 
Minister that there was some danger of 'bomb-throwing by Zeppelin 
airships 5 , the King had regarded the indiscriminate slaughter of 
civilians as an unseemly act of war. Although, much to Queen Mary's 
distress, he refused to take personal precautions, and would gaze 
fascinated from the balcony of Buckingham Palace as these silver 
German fish slid past above the searchlights and the shells, he was 
deeply angered by the deaths and mutilations that were caused. It 
is simple murder, 5 he wrote in his diary after a visit to Charing Gross 
Hospital, c and the Germans are proud of it.' He did not feel, how- 
ever, that reprisals offered the best response, or agree with Lord 
Fisher's suggestion that batches of German prisoners would be shot 
for every raid that occurred.* Even less did he approve of the sinking 
of unarmed vessels at sight. c lt is simply disgusting/ he wrote to his 
younger son on March 31, 1915, c that Naval Officers could do such 
things. 3 Yet when, a fortnight later, he learnt that the Cabinet 
intended to impose 'differential treatment' upon the crews of cap- 
tured German submarines, he instructed Lord Stamfordham to 
address to the Prime Minister an immediate warning:* 

"The King wishes you to see the enclosed correspondence with refer- 
ence to the German submarine prisoners. His Majesty is sorry that 
their treatment differs from ordinary prisoners of war. By some people 
they are regarded, and spoken of, as "Pirates". In the King's opinion, 
they have but obeyed orders, brutal and inhuman though these 
orders may be. In any case, either they are criminals and should be 
tried and punished as such; or they are prisoners of war and ought to 
be treated accordingly. But apparently the nature of their punishment 
is decided according to what, in the circumstances, the Admiralty 
may consider right. 

His Majesty cannot agree with this principle, and, further, the 
treatment laid down in the Admiralty memorandum seems to him 
unduly severe, even admitting which he does not that a difference 
should be made in dealing with these prisoners. A separate room in a 
Detention Quarter may, I suppose, be freely translated as a "cell in 
prison", the food allowance differing but little from prison diet. 

The King feds that a refusal to allow a representative of the 
American Embassy to report on the condition of the prisoners will still 
further aggravate the situation, and he trusts you will be able to 
arrange with the First Lord and the Foreign Office for the request to 
be granted. 

The King yields to no one in abominating the general conduct of 
the Germans throughout this war; but none the less he deprecates the 
idea of reprisals and retaliation; he has always hoped that at the end 
of the war we shall as a Nation stand before the world as having con- 
ducted it as far as possible with humanity and like gentlemen.' 

igi6 Mr Bonar Law 

The King's warning on this occasion was amply justified by the 
events that followed. On hearing of the treatment accorded to their 
submarine prisoners, the Germans immediately selected thirty-nine 
British officers and placed them in solitary confinement. The King 
at this caused a strong letter to be written to Mr Balfour, who had 
by then become First Lord of the Admiralty:* 

"The King knows how difficult it is to give in, but we are dealing with 
people who have no regard for justice, mercy or righteousness, and for 
the sake of humanity and pity upon our gallant soldiers, His Majesty 
hopes that the German conditions unfair, unjust and unreasonable 
though they be may be complied with. 9 

The Government thereupon retreated from the position which 
they had unwisely adopted and thenceforward German submarine 
crews when captured received the same treatment as other prisoners 
of war. 


By April 1916 it became apparent to the Army Council that the 
Military Service Act passed in the previous January was insufficient 
to provide the reinforcements which would be required. On the 
evening of April 15 Lord Reading, the Lord Chief Justice, paid a 
private visit to Lord Stamfordham and warned him that another and 
more serious Cabinet crisis was impending. The Prime Minister had 
only secured the passage of the Military Service Act by promising 
that it would not be extended to apply to unattested married men. 
Mr Lloyd George was now threatening to resign unless the Act were 
amended to include every available man of military age. If Mr 
Lloyd George persisted in his resignation, Mr Bonar Law would 
probably follow suit. The Coalition Government would dissolve and 
the country be faced with all the dangers and perplexities of a 
General Election. Lord Reading suggested that, although it might 
be unwise for the King to exert 'personal pressure 5 on Mr Lloyd 
George, it might be possible for His Majesty to exercise his influence 
to 'find some means of accommodation V 

On the following morning Lord Stamfordham went to see Mr 
Bonar Law at Pembroke Lodge. He found him wrestling gloomily 
with a personal dilemma. If he sided with Mr Lloyd George, he 
might be exposing the country to serious internal unrest and dis- 
turbance. If he sided with Mr Asquith, he would be betraying his 
own Party, for whom conscription had always been c one of the 
cardinal points of policy*. Might not a possible course be for Mr 


Mr Lloyd George igi6 

Asquith to resign and for the King then to send for him, Mr Bonar 
Law? In that event he could reply that he was unable to form a 
Government without a majority in the House of Commons. The 
King would then again send for Mr Asquith who could reconstruct 
his administration on an even broader basis. By such a device the 
face of everybody would be saved. Mr Bonar Law was not, however, 
much enamoured of his own proposal; he hung his head sideways in 
saddened doubt. OT 

Lord Stamfordham then visited Mr Lloyd George, whom he 
found in a mood of exuberant pugnacity. The Prime Minister was 
not conducting the war with sufficient c energy and determination 5 . 
Why was he so frightened of the Trades Unions? The Prime 
Minister was being bullied by Mr J. H. Thomas, who was 'the 
greatest blatherer living*. Why was he so terrified of what would 
happen in the two storm-centres, the Clyde and South Wales? The 
trouble to be expected from the Clyde was much exaggerated. As for 
South Wales, 'they are my own flesh and blood and I can answer for 
them. 3 Was a General Election really such a horrible prospect? What 
did it matter if the Government did Tall? c We politicians always 
imagine that no one can govern the country except ourselves. 5 To 
talk of the effect that a split would have upon our Allies was little 
short of 'rubbish 5 . 'Tell the King', said Mr Lloyd George, 'that I 
should be breaking my Privy Councillor's oath were I to act differ- 
ently to what I am now doing.' 

'During this interesting interview, 5 Lord Stamfordham recorded, 'I 
was struck by Mr L.G's energy, keenness, & earnest determination. 
But he contemptuously brushed aside any difficulty which was sug- 
gested.' * 

In the end Mr Lloyd George triumphed and his confidence in the 
spirit of the country was shown to have been well-founded. On April 
20 a compromise was agreed to in Cabinet and on April 25 and 26 
took place two Secret Sessions of the House of Commons. Mr Asquith 
was so encouraged by the spirit of the House that he withdrew his 
compromise arrangement and on May 3 introduced a Bill to impose 
immediate and general conscription. This Bill was passed with only 
37 votes of dissent and received the Royal Assent on May 25. The 
prophets of strikes and revolution were discredited. 

The King was delighted by this happy conclusion of the con- 
troversy. He addressed to the Prime Minister a letter of warm con- 
gratulation written in his own hand: 

i<)i6 The Dublin rebellion 

'It is "with the greatest satisfaction that I learn of the happy agreement 
arrived at by the Cabinet today. I do most heartily congratulate you 
on having by your patience and skill extricated the Country from a 
position, the dangers, of which it was impossible to overestimate. I do 
indeed trust that this solution will prove final and that your Coalition 
Government, once more united, will gain renewed strength & greater 
confidence of the Country to enable you to prosecute with the fullest 
energy the continuance of the war to a victorious end. 

During the last six years you & I have passed through some 
strenuous & critical times & once again, thank God, we have 
weathered the storm. ... In expressing my relief at the termination of 
the crisis, I wish again to assure you of my complete confidence in my 
Prime Minister. 

Believe me, v. sincerely yours, 

George R.I.' 

Mr Asquith replied by assuring the King that 'the happy 
agreement arrived at was a triumph of patriotism & British good 
sense over every kind of sinister influence'.* 

Mr Lloyd George's abandonment of his threat to appeal to the 
country, Mr Asquith's surrender on the issue of conscription, were 
hastened, if not caused, by the very serious events which occurred 
that week in Dublin. On April 22 the German ship Aud, carrying a 
large consignment of rifles and other munitions, was intercepted off 
the coast of Ireland. On the same day Sir Roger Casement, 1 who had 
been landed in Kerry from a German submarine, was recognised by a 
coastguard at Banna and taken into custody. In spite of these mis- 
haps, the Irish Volunteers, assisted by James Connolly's 'Citizen's 
Aim/ decided to proceed with the 'parade 5 which had been 
announced to take place in Dublin on April 24. On that Easter 
Monday they suddenly seized and occupied the Post Office, St 
Stephen's Green, the Four Courts and Jacob's biscuit factory. Loot- 
ing broke out in the city, British soldiers were murdered in the streets, 
and a great part of Sackville Street went up in flames. Reinforce- 
ments were sent across from England and Sir John Maxwell placed 
in command. By April 30 the insurrection had been suppressed and 
the leaders arrested. Fifteen of these were tried by Court Martial and 
summarily executed: nearly two thousand of their followers were 

1 Sir Roger Casement (1864-1916) was born in Co. Dublin, entered 
the British Consular Service and acquired fame by his remarkable report 
on Belgian atrocities in the Congo. He retired in 1912 and devoted the rest 
of his life to the cause of Irish Independence. After his arrest on April 24, 
1916, he was brought to London, tried for treason, and executed on 


The rise of Sinn Fein 1916 

transported to England and interned. Mr Birrell, the Irish Secretary, 

On May 1 1 Mr Asquith crossed to Dublin to examine the situa- 
tion on the spot. On his return, he informed the House of Commons 
that he had asked Mr Lloyd George to negotiate a settlement with 
the Irish Parliamentary Party. On June 10 Mr Redmond announced 
that Mr Lloyd George had offered immediate Home Rule to Ireland, 
subject to the exclusion of Ulster for the period of the war. On July 
n, Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords made the contradictory 
statement that the exclusion of Ulster would be 'permanent and 
enduring' and that meanwhile order would be maintained in Ireland 
under the Defence of the Realm Act. Mr Redmond described this 
statement as 'an insult 9 and a breach of faith. Mr Lloyd George's 
negotiations came to nothing, since the Unionists in the Coalition 
would not agree to any sacrifices such as Mr Redmond or his sup- 
porters could accept. On July 31 it was announced that Mr Duke, a 
Unionist, was to succeed Mr Birrell as Chief Secretary for Ireland. 
Mr Redmond denounced this appointment as indicating 'the 
restoration of the Castle regime, with a Unionist executive 5 . The 
hesitation of the Government left Ireland bewildered and resentful. 
The Easter rising, which had been condemned as a bloodstained 
failure, came to be regarded as a signal success. The British, it was 
whispered, yielded only to violence; and violence thereafter became 
the watchword of Sinn Fein. 


In the new Commander in Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, the King 
possessed an old and valued friend: 1 

C I know*, he wrote to Him on his appointment, 'you will have the con- 
fidence of the troops serving under you & it is almost needless to assure 
you with what implicit trust I look forward to the successful conduct of 
the War on the Western front under your able direction. Remember 
that it will always be a pleasure to me to help you in any way I can to 
carry out your heavy task & important responsibilities. I hope you 
will from time to time write to me quite freely & tell me how matters 
are progressing.' ff - 

1 While still a young officer, Sir Douglas Haig had been much favoured 
by King Edward VII. He had been invited to stay at Sandringham as 
early as 1898. In May 1905, when at Windsor for Ascot week, he met Miss 
Dorothy ^ Vivian, a Maid of Honour to Queen Alexandra. They were 
married in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace on July 1 1 following. 

19*6 Sir Douglas Haig 

Sir Douglas did not hesitate to avail himself of this invitation. 
The letters of Sir John French had been few and stilted: Sir Douglas 
Haig wrote to the King frequently and without reserve. He would 
discuss such matters as his relations with the French Generals, the 
dictatorial attitude adopted by M. Poincar6, the friction between the 
Canadian divisional commanders and the Canadian depot at 
Shorncliffe, the excellent influence exercised by the army chaplains, 
the advantage of General Nivelle possessing an English mother, or 
even the manners of Lord Curzon: 

c He made himself most agreeable during his stay here. I thought him 
much changed since his Oxford days and also since I saw him in India 
as Viceroy. He is now much more natural and not at all pompous. I 
do wish the Country could have the advantage of his great talents in 
some capacity. He strikes me always as a great statesman.' r 

With Mr Asquith, Sir Douglas Haig*s relations were confident 
and friendly: 

'I felt', he wrote after Mr Asquith had been in France, 'that the old 
gentleman was head and shoulders above any other politician who had 
visited my headquarters in brains and all-round knowledge. It was 
quite a pleasure to have the old man in the house so amusing and 
kindly in his ways.' * 

The mutual distrust which existed and developed between Mr 
Lloyd George and the Commander in Chief caused the King re- 
current concern. The inability of these two men 9 comments Sir Duff 
Cooper, *to understand one another or to work harmoniously 
together is a melancholy fact which has to be recorded. 9 * Mr Lloyd 
George did not vouchsafe to the opinions of Generals, Admirals and 
senior officials the same rapturous welcome that he often gave to the 
bright ideas of their subordinates. He was irritated by Sir Douglas 
Haig's exquisite, if slightly formal, manners, by the obduracy of his 
arguments, by his refusal to agree that the war could only be won by 
a major campaign in the Balkans. The King sought by every means 
in his power to alleviate this personal friction. In August 1916, in the 
hope of fortifying the Commander in Chief's position, he suggested to 
the Prime Minister that the time had come to make Sir Douglas 
Haig a Field Marshal. 1 * Mr Asquith replied that such an honour 
seemed premature. In the following September the King raised the 
matter with Mr Lloyd George himself who replied that it would be 
better to wait until the battle of the Somme had been fought to a 
successful conclusion. Sir Douglas Haig was not gazetted a Field 
Marshal until January 1917. 


Jutland 1916 

The King's relations with Sir John Jellicoe, Commander in Chief 
of the Grand Fleet, although frank and continuous, were less inti- 
mate. It was through his former friends or shipmates through 
Admirals Wemyss, Colville and Beatty that he maintained the 
closest touch with his old profession: 

C I often look back', Sir Rosslyn Wemyss wrote to him on August 1 1, 
1914, 'at the happy days of long ago, and there forms itself before my 
mind a picture of gun-rooms, of old mess-mates, and of youths without 
care or anxieties. Then my mind turns to the present, and I see Your 
Majesty transformed from the cheery midshipman into the Sovereign, 
with all the load of anxiety, trouble and responsibility, and I cannot 
but help feeling much moved.' * 

'We are haunted', wrote Sir David Beatty, 'by the fear that 
possibly "the day" may never come. 9 " That much desired day 
arrived on May 31, 1916, and proved a disappointment. The King 
had been warned that the German High Seas Fleet had put to sea and 
that a great battle was impending off the coast of Jutland. In 
anxious excitement he waited for the first report. It reached Him in 
the form of a signal scribbled without punctuation by an Admiralty 

c Our losses Queen Mary Indefatigable Invincible Defence Black 
Prince Sparrow Hawk Ardent Fortune Tipperary Turbulent also 
missing at present Shark Nestor Nomad. 5 

The shock occasioned by this message was increased by personal 
anxiety regarding Prince Albert. The Collingwood, in which he was 
serving, had been heavily attacked by torpedo craft; of the main 
German battleships they had seen no more than the distant orange 
stabs of their guns, flashing in the twilight mist; they had watched 
the Defence explode and sink; they had passed the wreck of the 
Invincible, her two halves 500 yards apart: 

Trince Albert 5 , reported Captain J. G. Ley of the Collingwood, 
'was in bed on sick list when we prepared for action, but got up and 
went to his turret, where he remained until we finally secured guns 
next day. Though his food that evening and night was of an unusual 
description, I am glad to tell your Majesty that he has been quite well 
since and looks quite well again. 9 * 

In a letter to his parents Prince Albert gave his own descrip- 
tion of the Battle of Jutland:* 

*I was in A turret and watched most of the action through one of the 
trainers telescopes, as we were firing by director, when the turret is 

igi6 Prince Albert 

trained in the working chamber and not in the gun house. At the 
commencement I was sitting on the top of A turret and had a very good 
view of the proceedings. I was up there during a lull, when a German 
ship started firing at us, and one salvo "straddled" us. We at once 
returned the fire. I was distinctly startled and jumped down the hole 
in the top of the turret like a shot rabbit!! I didn't try the experience 
again. The ship was in a fine state on the main deck. Inches of water 
sluicing about to prevent fires getting a hold on the deck. Most of the 
cabins were also flooded. 

The hands behaved splendidly and all of them in the best of spirits 
as their heart's desire had at last been granted, which was to be in 
action with the Germans. Some of the turret's crew actually took on 
bets with one another that we should not fire a single shot. A good deal 
of money must have changed hands I should think by now. 

It was certainly a great experience to have been through and it 
shows that we are at war and that the Germans can fight if they like.' 

A fortnight after the battle, the King paid a visit of inspection to 
Rosyth, Invergordon and Scapa Flow. He stayed with Sir John 
Jdlicoe in the Iron Duke. By then the shock occasioned by the first 
report of our losses had been mitigated by further information; the 
Germans also had suffered heavily and did not again venture upon 
a major action in the high seas. 1 The King, who knew so much about 
the chances and perils of naval warfare, was not the man to criticise 
the tactics or strategy of the Commander in Chief. He would have 
agreed with Mr Churchill that Sir John Jellicoe was the only com- 
mander on either side, whose orders 'in the space of two or three hours 
might nakedly decide who won the warV 

In December 1916 Sir John Jellicoe was appointed First Sea 
Lord and the command of the Grand Fleet devolved upon Sir David 

6 I have known you', the King wrote to the latter on December 3,*- 'for 
upwards of thirty years, ever since we were shipmates together in the 
Mediterranean; I have watched your career with interest and admira- 
tion & I feel that the splendid fleet which you now command could 
not be in better hands, that you enjoy the full confidence of your 

1 In the Battle of Jutland the British lost three battle cruisers, three 
cruisers and eight torpedo craft. The Germans lost one battleship, one 
battle cruiser, four light cruisers and five torpedo craft. Our casualties 
were 6,945 officers and men, those of the Germans 3,058. Our tonnage loss 
1 15> 02 5 compared with the German loss of 61,180. Our heavy armour- 
piercing shells were of inferior quality to those used by the Germans. (See 
Lord Chatfidd's The Naoy and Defence, Vol. I, Chapter XVI, and Mr. 
Churchill's WorldCrisis, Vol. Ill, page 167 ff.) 


Venizelos 1916 

officers & men, whose loyal & devoted services you can count on as 
surely as did your distinguished predecessor. You have my hearty good 
wishes & those of the whole Empire. May God bless you & my fleet & 
grant you victory.' 

*I pray God grant me 5 , Sir David Beatty replied,*- 6 *a right 
judgement in all things, to enable me at all times to prove worthy of 
the Trust that Your Majesty has honoured me with.' 


From time to time during the war the King would receive com- 
munications from the Heads of Foreign States. M. Poincar would 
write him ceremonial letters in his own hand, congratulating him 
upon some British victory; the Queen of Holland, the Kings of Den- 
mark and Sweden, would write politely protesting against the rigours 
of our blockade; the King of the Belgians would beg him to restrain 
our aviators from bombing Belgian towns; the King of Spain would 
make useful and intelligent suggestions for the mitigation of some of 
the horrors of war; the Queen of Rumania's letters were intimate, 
patriotic, gallant and unconventional. 1 The King's replies to these 
communications were generally drafted for him in the chill but 
excellent style of the Foreign Office. What is strange, and to the 
biographer disappointing, is that the few letters which he exchanged 
with the Tsar of Russia, with whom he was on terms of such affec- 
tionate intimacy, were (with the solitary exception noted below) 
written in an equally conventional and stilted style. They contribute 
nothing to the history of the period. 

In so far as Foreign Affairs were concerned, the King's main 
preoccupation was with the problem of Greek neutrality and the 
conflict between King Constantine and M. Venizelos. The former, 
who may well have regarded a German victory as inevitable, wished 
to keep his country neutral; the latter desired to enter the war on the 
side of the Allies. 2 The situation was complicated by two personal 
factors. King Constantine, who was the one man whom M. Veni- 

1 King Carol of Rumania died on October 10, 1914. He was succeeded 
by his nephew, the Crown Prince Ferdinand, who had married King 
George's first cousin, Princess Marie of Edinburgh. 

2 M. Venizelos had already on two occasions (August 1914 and March 
1915) offered to place the Greek armies at the disposal of the Allies. The 
first offer was rejected, since Sir Edward Grey did not wish to prejudice his 
scheme for a Balkan block; the second, because Russia was unwilling that 
Greek troops should share in the anticipated capture of Constantinople. 

1916 The Greek conflict 

zclos had been unable to charm, suspected his Prime Minister of 
wishing to foment an internal revolution and to establish a Republic. 
And General Sarrail, the French Commander in Chief of the allied 
forces at Salonika (who was a 'political' soldier of the left and who 
had evidence to show that the Greek General Staff were in com- 
munication with Berlin) was determined by intervening forcibly 
and constantly in Greek internal affairs, to protect himself against 
any menace to his left flank. 

The attack launched by Bulgaria against Serbia in September 
1915 rendered operative tie Graeco-Serbian Treaty of Alliance. 
M. Venizelos immediately mobilised the Greek Army, but was at 
once dismissed by King Constantine. The Chamber, in which the 
Venizdists held a majority, was dissolved; from the ensuing General 
Election the Liberal Party of M. Venizelos abstained in protest; 
M. Zaimis became Prime Minister in M. Venizelos' place. On the 
advice of General Sarrail, France, Great Britain and Russia, claim- 
ing their rights as the 'Protecting Powers 9 under the Convention of 
1832, thereupon insisted that the Greek Army should be demobilised 
and asked for further 'guarantees'. In August 1916, on the entry of 
Rumania into the war, M. Venizelos with his party leaders seceded 
to Salonika, where he established a Provisional Government of his 

Sir Edward Grey had most unwillingly been dragged into this 
position. It seemed to him that, having entered the war in defence 
of the neutrality of Belgium, it was wrong for us to impose our will 
upon another small neutral, and one whom, if matters went badly, 
we should be unable to protect.*- The King, who had been visited 
in London by Prince George and Prince Andrew of Greece, and who 
had begged them to induce their brother, King Constantine, to 'see 
reason 9 ,** was so perturbed by the development of the situation that 
he addressed to the Prime Minister a letter of unaccustomed em- 
phasis !** 

Windsor Castle. 

4th Sept., 1916. 
My dear Prime Minister, 

I am anxious at the way matters appear to be drifting in Greece, 
where, at the instigation of France, the Allies have agreed upon cer- 
tain action which seems to me harsh and even open to question whether 
it is in accordance with International law. We have not only taken over 
control of the Posts and Telegraphs, demanded dismissal of enemy 
agents, but ordered proceedings to be taken against Greek subjects, 
who are supposed to have been accomplices in acts of corruption and 


The Ultimatum 1916 

espionage. Are we justified in interfering to this extent in the internal 
Government of a neutral and friendly country, even though we be one 
of the guarantors of its Constitution? Are we acting up to our boasted 
position as the protector of smaller Powers? 

I cannot help feeling that in this Greek question we have allowed 
France too much to dictate a policy, and that as a Republic she may be 
somewhat intolerant of, if not anxious to abolish, the monarchy in 
Greece. But this I am sure is not the policy of my Government. Nor is it 
that of the Emperor of Russia, who, writing to me a few days ago said: 

"I feel rather anxious about the internal affairs in Greece. It seems 
to me the protecting Powers, in trying to safeguard our interests 
concerning Greece's neutrality, are gradually immersing them- 
selves too much in her internal home affairs to the detriment of the 

I cannot refrain from expressing my astonishment and regret at 
General San-ail's arbitrary conduct towards those troops who, loyal to 
their King and Government, refused to join the Revolutionary move- 
ment at Salonika. Gould not a protest of some kind be sent to the 
French Government against General Sarrail's proceedings which are 
so strongly deprecated by Monsieur Zaimis? 

While of course acknowledging the necessity for our working in 
conceit with our Allies, I consider that we are the partner in the 
Alliance who, if we choose to do so, could take the lead and decide the 
policy. For our Sea Power alone, to say nothing of our financial 
superiority, make us the predominant Power and indispensable to our 
Allies in determining the War. 

Public opinion in Greece, QS well as the opinion of the King, is 
evidently changing and if the Allies would treat her kindly and not, if 
I may say so, in a bullying spirit, she will in all probability join them. 

I do not wish to interfere in the action of my Government, but I 
regard it as my duty to place on record my views on this question at 
the present moment. 

(signed) George R.I. 

The King's apprehensions were not unjustified. At the end of 
November 1916 Admiral Dartiges de Fournet appeared with a 
Franco-British squadron at the Piraeus and presented to King Con- 
stantine an ultimatum, demanding compliance with certain drastic 
conditions, including the surrender by the Greek Army of much of 
their equipment and material. He returned to his flagship under the 
impression that King Constantine would consent, provided that it 
were made clear that he had only surrendered to a demonstration of 
force. On December i therefore the Admiral disembarked detach- 
ments of French and British marines, who advanced on Athens. 
Much to their surprise, they were met with armed resistance; several' 
casualties were caused and the main force, including the French 

King George and King Constantine 

Admiral, were surrounded in the Zappeion gardens, from where they 
had to be withdrawn in circumstances of extreme humiliation. 

King Constantine, in some alarm, then addressed to the King a 
telegram in which he sought to justify his action.*-' The Allied land- 
ing, he contended, had been resisted, only because it was known to 
be part of a Venizelist conspiracy and the prelude to a Venizelist 
rising. On December u, King George returned to this appeal a 
reply which can have left no doubts whatever in his cousin's mind:*-* 

December nth, 1916. 

*I have received Your Majesty's telegram of December 6th. The 
recent events that have occurred in Greece have caused me deep pain 
and concern. I am unaware of the conspiracy to which you refer, but I 
know that no agents of the Allied Powers were connected with any- 
thing of the kind. The Allied Powers have, from the outset, confined 
their demands upon Greece to the observance of a benevolent neutral- 
ity. Unfortunately this condition has not been observed. Not only have 
the proceedings of Your Majesty's Government been open to grave 
objection, but the Allied Powers have received indubitable proof of 
action on the part of the Greek Government, both damaging to their 
naval and military interests and of direct assistance to the enemy's 

This made it necessary for them, in the interests of their own 
safety, to ask for certain material guarantees, in the justifiability of 
which, it is only fair to observe, Your Majesty had given reason to 
believe that you were disposed to agree. When, however, difficulties 
arose with Your 'Majesty's Government in regard to the execution of 
those guarantees, the Allied Powers saw themselves obliged to order 
certain formal measures at Athens in the nature of a military demon- 
stration, in order that the Greek Government should realize that the 
demand of the Allies was serious. Your Majesty was fully informed 
beforehand of the nature and scope of those measures, and gave to the 
Allied Commander, two days before the demonstration was to take 
place, a written assurance of the maintenance of public order. Relying 
on this assurance, small detachments of Allied troops were landed, only 
to be met by an unsuspected and unprovoked attack by Greek troops, 
posted for this purpose by the Greek Government. 

I take note of Your Majesty's assurance that you deplore the useless 
bloodshed and I note with satisfaction your declaration that you har- 
bour no designs against the Allied Powers and will never attack them. 
But my Government can only take a very serious view of the events 
resulting in the death of my gallant troops. These events have aroused 
a feeling of deep and widespread indignation among my people; a 
feeling intensified by accounts received from many including neutral 
sources of the treatment to which Venizelists in Greece are now being 
subjected. Your Majesty will understand that the demands, which, in 


Effect of the Greek conflict 1916 

conjunction with the Allied Powers, my Government must now make, 
will include reparation for the unprovoked attack made by your troops 
and guarantees for the future. 

There followed an uneasy pause. Greece hovered thereafter on 
the brink of revolution; and the British public, who rightly recog- 
nised that M. Venizelos was our friend, and who with less justice 
assumed that King Constantine was our enemy, remained for long 
suspicious and perplexed. 





Mr Lloyd George dissatisfied with the conduct of the war Sir Edward 
Carson forms the nucleus of a Unionist opposition Embarrassment 
caused thereby to Mr. Bonar Law Sir Max Aitken brings Mr 
Lloyd George, Sir Edward Carson and Mr Bonar Law together 
Mr Asquith unable to accept Mr Lloyd George's plan for a War 
Council under the latter's chairmanship Mr. Asquith resigns 
The King refuses Mr. Bonar Law's request for a Dissolution 
Buckingham Palace Conference Mr Lloyd George forms his 
Cabinet The German Peace Note The King's advice to Mr 
Lloyd George President Wilson's Note The King and Colonel 
House The United States at war with Germany The Russian 
Revolution The Tsar and his family are invited to England Dis- 
agreements between Mr Lloyd George and the Generals The 
Calais Conference Sir Douglas Haig's letter to the King and his 
reply The collapse of the Nivdle plan. 

THE year 1916, as has been said, imposed upon the British people a 
succession of strains and disappointments: Verdun, the Easter rising 
in Dublin, Kut, Jutland, the exhaustion of Russian military power, 
the Somme, the Rumanian catastrophe, and the inexplicable tangle 
of Greek affairs. These ordeals did not produce a mood of defeatism; 
in fact, the disquiet which spread in the late autumn of 1916 was 
increased by rumours that certain members of the Cabinet were in 
favour of a negotiated peace. The public temper was one rather of 
baffled pugnacity; the impression widened that Mr Asquith and his 
Cabinet were not conducting the war with sufficient zest. 

Mr Lloyd George, who had succeeded Lord Kitchener as 
Minister of War, shared this impression. For long he had been urging 
a change of political machinery. What he now demanded was the 
creation of a small War Council composed of three or four Ministers 
with himself as chairman. Mr Asquith, while admitting the need for 
more concentrated and expeditious political direction, insisted that 
his own authority as Prime Minister must remain supreme. He 
estimated that, even if Mr Lloyd George resigned from the Cabinet, 
he would himself retain the loyalty of the Liberal Party. Nor did he 
expect that many of the Unionist members of the Coalition would 


Break up of the Coalition 

contemplate allying themselves with, still less serving under, Mr 

Lloyd George. This estimate was optimistic. 

The Unionist Party had never viewed the Coalition with any 
massive enthusiasm. On October 1915, Sir Edward Carson, whom 
Mr Asquith had been obliged to admit into his Government as 
Attorney General, resigned in protest against what he regarded as 
the betrayal of Serbia. It was around him that, in the months that 
followed, the nucleus of a Unionist Opposition began to form. 
Matters did not come to a head until November 8, 1916, when Sir 
Edward Carson raised in the House of Commons the minor issue of 
enemy property in Nigeria. In the division that followed only 73 of 
the 286 Unionists voted with the Government This placed Mr 
Bonar Law, their official leader, in an awkward position. On the one 
hand, he did not wish to abandon Mr Asquith, to associate himself 
with Mr Lloyd George, or to plunge the country into a political 
crisis; on the other hand, he was unwilling to see the leadership of 
the Unionists slide slowly into other hands. Sir Edward Carson also 
had his apprehensions. He foresaw that if he pushed his opposition 
too far, the Coalition might appeal to the country, all dissidents 
might be eliminated, and Mr Asquith returned to unchallengeable 
power. It was largely owing to the persistence and ingenuity of Sir 
Max Aitken 1 that Mr Bonar Law was able to master his scruples and 
Sir Edward Carson his apprehensions. At a series of meetings held in 
Sir Max Aitkcn's apartment in the Hyde Park Hotel a triple alliance 
was concluded between Mr Bonar Law, Sir Edward Carson and Mr 
Lloyd George. Neither Mr Asquith, nor the Liberal or Unionist 
Parties, were fully aware at the time of the nature and purport of 
this alliance. Lord Northdiffe and the editors of the Daily News and 
Daily Express were more accurately informed. 

Meanwhile Mr Asquith had been discussing direct with Mr 
Lloyd George the functions and status of the new War Council. By 
the evening of Sunday, December 3, he was under the impression 
that agreement in principle had been reached between them and 
that no more would now be required than a slight redistribution of 
Cabinet posts. He informed the King accordingly. 

*Sir Max Aitken, subsequently Lord Beaverbrook, was the com- 
patriot as well as the devoted friend of Mr Bonar Law. He entered Parlia- 
ment in 1910 as Conservative member for Ashton-under-Lyne. He was 
knighted in 191 1, received a baronetcy in 1916 and a peerage in 1917. In 
is book, Politicians and the War, he has given a full and frank account of 
these negotiations. 


1916 Mr Asquith resigns 

On the morning of Monday, December 4, there appeared in The 
Times a leading article attacking Mr Asquith personally and showing 
that the writer had been informed in detail of the course of these 
confidential negotiations. The Prime Minister assumed, rightly or 
wrongly, that this article had been inspired by Mr Lloyd George 
himself. 1 His attitude stiffened accordingly. He informed Mr Lloyd 
George that the proposed War Council would prove unworkable 
unless the Prime Minister retained 'supreme and effective control of 
War Policy*. He added that he could not agree to Sir Edward Carson 
replacing Mr Balfour as First Lord of the Admiralty and as a mem- 
ber of the new War Council. Mr Lloyd George replied on the morn- 
ing of Tuesday, December 5, that he could not accept this version of 
the agreement which he had reached with Mr Asquith on Sunday, 
and would feel it his c duty to leave the Government in order to in- 
form the people of the real condition of affairs'. At i.o p.m. on that 
day the Liberal members of Mr Asquith's Cabinet, with the excep- 
tion of Mr Lloyd George, met in Downing Street and while pledging 
unflinching loyalty to their leader, unanimously decided that Mr 
Lloyd George's conditions could not be accepted. 

Shortly afterwards Mr Asquith was visited by three important 
Unionists, Lord Curzon, Lord Robert Cecil and Mr Austen Cham- 
berlain. They informed him c to his great surprise' a that they would 
now be forced to deprive him of their support. They had discovered 
'that Mr Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson were now solid with 
Mr Lloyd George, and they saw no prospect of holding their party if 
this formidable trio went into Opposition, and were backed, as they 
would be, by the chief part of the Conservative Press'. They added 
that they had been informed that Mr Lloyd George could command 
the support of the Labour section and of a considerable number, if 
not of the majority, of the Liberals. Being thus abandoned, Mr 
Asquith realised that he had no alternative but to resign. 

*At 7.0 p.m.', the King wrote in his diary for Tuesday, December 5, 
*the Prime Minister came to see me & placed his resignation in my 
hands, which I accepted with great regret. He said that he had tried to 
arrange matters with Lloyd George about the War Committee all day, 

1 The article was written by Mr Geoffrey Robinson, Editor of The 
Times, who was spending the week-end at Cliveden. Mr Lloyd George, 
who had had an interview with Lord Northdiffe on that Sunday eveni 
(see Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary, page 106) vehemently denied that 
he had had cognisance of the article. It is possible that Mr Geoffrey 
Robinson obtained his information from Sir Edward Carson. 


The question of dissolution 1916 

but was unable to. All his colleagues, both Liberal and Unionist, urged 
hi to resign as it was the only solution of the difficulty. I fear that it 
will cause a panic in the City & in America & do harm to the Allies. 
It is a great blow to me & will I fear buck up the Germans. 

After dinner I sent for Mr Bonar Law, who came at 9.30 & I asked 
him to form a Government; he said he would consult his friends & let 
me know tomorrow morning, but he did not think he would be able to 
do so.' 

In sending for the leader of the Unionists the King was acting in 
strict accordance with constitutional precedent. From a memoran- 
dum 5 written late that night by Lord Stamfordham it seems that 
this interview was unsatisfactory. Mr Bonar Law began by saying 
that he had always striven to make good blood between the Prime 
Minister and the Secretary of State for War; that he had urged the 
former, long before the Press campaign started, himself to reform the 
War Committee; but that in the end he had come to the conclusion 
c that he must decide between Mr Asquith or Mr Lloyd George, and, 
as he believed the latter would win the war before the former could 
do so, he had decided to follow Mr Lloyd George'. Mr Bonar Law 
added that both he and Mr Lloyd George had for long been con- 
vinced that the war was being mismanaged: 

To this*, writes Lord Stamfordham, 'the King demurred and said 
that the politicians should leave the conduct of the war to experts. Mr 
Bonar Law said that Robertson and the soldiers were all wrong, with 
the result that we have lost Serbia, Rumania and very likely Greece. 
The King expressed his entire disagreement with these views. . . .* 

A more important divergence arose between the King and Mr 
Bonar Law on the question of a Dissolution. The King was opposed 
to a General Election in war time, fearing that it might have a dis- 
integrating effect. He had foreseen that Mr Bonar Law, if invited to 
form a Government, might make it a condition of acceptance that 
the existing Parliament should be dissolved. He had thus, during the 
course of that evening, asked Lord Haldane, as a former Lord 
Chancellor, whether the Sovereign would'be constitutionally justified 
in refusing to accept such a condition: 

*Will you*, wrote Lord Stamfordham, c be very kind and tdl me, if the 
King were asked to dissolve Parliament as a condition of anyone under- 
taking to form a Government, could His Majesty constitutionally 
refuse to do so?' 

Lord Haldane furnished his opinion in writing:* 1 

Lord Haldanfs opinion 

i. The Sovereign ought at no time to act without the advice of a 
responsible Minister, excepting when contemplating the exercise 
of his prerogative right to dismiss Ministers. The only Minister who 
can properly give advice as to a Dissolution of Parliament is the 
Prime Minister. 

2. The Sovereign, before acting on advice to dissolve, ought to weigh 
that advice. His Majesty may, instead of accepting it, dismiss the 
Minister who gives it, or receive his resignation. This is the only 
alternative to taking his advice. 

3. It follows that the Sovereign cannot entertain any bargain for a 
Dissolution merely with a possible Prime Minister before the latter 
is fully installed. The Sovereign cannot, before that event, properly 
weigh the general situation and the Parliamentary position of the 
Ministry as formed. 

Haldane. 5 Dec. 1916' 

Fortified by such expert judgement, the King informed Mr 
Bonar Law that he would refuse, if asked, to accord him a Dissolu- 

'Mr Bonar Law 9 , Lord Stamfordham records,* Questioned the 
advisability of His Majesty refusing and hoped that the King would 
consider before adopting that attitude. Indeed he himself might suc- 
ceed in forming a Government if he appealed to the Country.' 

Mr Bonar Law left Buckingham Palace to consult his friends. 


By the next morning, Wednesday, December 6, Mr Bonar Law 
had come to the conclusion that he might succeed in forming a 
Government, if only he could persuade Mr Asquith to join it in a 
subordinate capacity. Mr Asquith, although he had held the office of 
Prime Minister for a longer period than any statesman since Lord 
Liverpool, was incapable of permitting feelings of personal dignity to 
affect his judgement; he merely doubted whether such a combina- 
tion would prove workable in practice. Mr Balfour, when consulted, 
made the suggestion that the King should be asked immediately to 
summon a Conference to discuss the formation of a National Govern- 
ment. Such a Conference, for all he knew, might succeed in per- 
suading Mr Asquith to serve under Mr Bonar Law. The King 
readily assented to this proposal and the Conference met at Bucking- 
ham Palace at 3.0 that afternoon. It was attended by Mr Asquith, 
Mr Lloyd George, Mr Bonar Law, Mr Balfour and Mr Arthur 
Henderson. The King presided. Lord Stamfordham's record of the 
proceedings must be quoted in its entirety:' 
K 289 

Buckingham Palace Conference 1916 

'Report of a Conference held at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, 
December 6th at 3 p.m. 

Previous to the Meeting, the King had seen Mr Balfour alone, 
who had explained to His Majesty his views of the situation and what 
seemed a possible solution. 

The proceedings were opened by the King who explained that, 
having accepted the resignation of Mr Asquith, he had called upon 
Mr Bonar Law to form a Government last night, and the latter had 
asked for time to consider, and had given his reply this morning to the 
effect that he asked His Majesty to summon this Meeting, and the 
King thanked the Members for having acceded to His Majesty's 

The King called upon Mr Balfour, who, speaking as an ex-Prime 
Minister and old Parliamentary hand, pointed out that the War Com- 
mittee as hitherto constituted, had proved an ineffective and unwork- 
able body, and reform was necessary if the War was to be carried out 
successfully. At the same time he was of opinion that no Government 
would be strong enough to carry on the War without Mr Asquith, and 
he urged him to join an Administration with Mr Bonar Law as Prime 

Mr Bonar Law then followed by an appeal to Mr Asquith to join the 
new Government on patriotic grounds. The Unionist Members of the 
late Government would not work under Mr Asquith as Prime Minister. 

Mr Henderson, as leader of the Labour Party, frankly confessed 
he did not believe he could get the consent of his party to support any 
Government of which Mr Asquith was not a member, and he earnestly 
appealed to Mr Asquith to join and serve under Mr Bonar Law. 

Mr Lloyd George repudiated any personal feeling whatever against 
the Prime Minister, and nothing which had occurred should interfere 
with his feelings of friendship towards him. There had been a mis- 
understanding between him and Mr Asquith, and the latter had him- 
self proposed methods by which the War Committee could be reformed, 
and its work carried out with him (Mr Lloyd George) as Chairman, 
but under the personal control of the Prime Minister. On Tuesday 
morning, however, he received a letter practically withdrawing these 
proposals and consequently he had felt it his duty to resign. He 
believed that unless a real War Committee, with full and independent 
powers, was constituted, we should go to ruin and lose the War, which 
up till now had been mismanaged. He had no ambition to be Prime 
Minister, and was ready to see Mr Asquith form another Government, 
and stand out, at the same time giving it his full support. Failing that, 
he appealed to Mr Asquith to join the Government under Mr Bonar 

Mr Asquith maintained that the Prime Minister and nobody else 
could preside over the War Committee, otherwise decisions might be 
arrived at which he could not agree to, which would result in friction 
and delay. In his opinion the War Committee had done admirable 
work. As to strictures upon the conduct of the War, he was unable to 

jgi6 Mr AsquitKs dilemma 

remember any case in which a decision had been arrived at without 
the concurrence of Mr Lloyd George. Mr Asquith continued by 
denouncing in serious terms the action of the Press. The Prime 
Minister's work was sufficiently heavy and responsible without his 
being subjected to daily vindictive, merciless attacks in the columns of 
the newspapers, and he urged that whatever Government might 
come into Office, measures should be taken to prevent the continuance 
of this Press tyranny. He had been accused of clinging "to Office, but 
he appealed to all those present as to whether such a charge was 
justifiable. He could honestly say that on waking this morning he was 
thankful to feel he was a free man. Mr Asquith referred in touching 
terms to the unquestioning confidence the King had invariably placed 
in him, of which he had received His Majesty's assurance only two 
days ago. He deeply valued it, and only hoped that his successor might 
enjoy the same generous trust and support which His Majesty had 
graciously reposed in him. 

The King now called the attention of the Meeting to the fact that 
although the matter had been fully discussed, no decision had been 
come to. 

Mr Balfour, in reply, said that he considered it was impossible for 
Mr Asquith to form a Government after what Mr Bonar Law had 
said about his party. A Government without Mr Lloyd George was 
impossible. Apparently Mr Bonar Law. was ready to form a Govern- 
ment if Mr Asquith would agree to accept a subordinate place, but, 
foiling this, he would propose that Mr Lloyd George should form an 

The result of the Meeting was an agreement that Mr Asquith 
should consider the proposals made to him, and let Mr Bonar Law 
know as soon as possible whether he would join the Government under 
him. If the answer was in the negative, Mr Bonar Law would not form 
a Government, but Mr Lloyd George would endeavour to do so/ 

The King dismissed the Conference at 4.30 p.m. Mr Asquith 
returned to Downing Street and called the Liberal ex-Ministers into 
consultation. Mr Arthur Henderson also attended the meeting. Mr 
Asquith asked his former colleagues whether, in their opinion, he 
ought to join a Government formed by either Mr Bonar Law or Mr 
Lloyd George. With the exception of Mr Edwin Montagu 1 and Mr 

1 Mr Edwin Montagu (1879-1924) entered Parliament in 1906 and 
from 1910-1914 held the post of Parliamentary Under Secretary at the 
India Office. In 1917 he became Secretary of State for India and the 
originator of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. In December 1919 he 
induced Parliament to accept his Government of India Bill under which 
dyarchy was established. In March 1922 he was forced to resign owing to a 
disagreement with Mr Lloyd George and he lost his seat at the ensuing 
election. The premature death of this imaginative, gifted and melancholy 
man was a severe loss to British politics. 


Mr Lloyd George Prime Minister 1916 

Henderson they expressed the decided view that such an arrange- 
ment would be impracticable. Mr Asquith was himself convinced 
that if he remained in the Government, even in a subordinate 
capacity, the Press attacks would continue and that any subsequent 
failure would be attributed to his presence. He foresaw moreover 
that friction was bound sooner or later to develop between himself 
and Mr Lloyd George in regard to the relations between the Cabinet 
and their military advisers and that an even more damaging political 
crisis would then inevitably arise. The Liberal Ministers decided 
therefore that it was preferable in the national interest that they and 
their leader should form a 'sober and responsible Opposition, 
steadily supporting the Government in the conduct of the war'.* 
Mr Bonar Law was so informed. 

'At seven,' the King's diary continued, *I received Bonar Law, who 
told me that he could not form a Government, as Asquith refused to 
serve under him. So I sent for Lloyd George & asked him to form a 
Government, which he said he would endeavour to do. 9 

During the morning and afternoon of the next day, Thursday, 
December 7, Mr Lloyd George applied his remarkable powers of 
solicitation and persuasion to obtaining recruits. He was aware that 
the more prominent Liberal Ministers in Mr Asquith's Cabinet had 
pledged themselves not to take office under his leadership; his 
endeavour to include Mr Winston Churchill was vetoed by Mr 
Bonar Law; he failed, at least for a time, to secure the help of Mr 
Edwin Montagu. The Unionists proved more amenable. Lord 
Curzon and Lord Milner hastily agreed to become members of the 
proposed 'War Cabinet'. Mr Balfour, when asked to succeed Sir 
Edward Grey as Foreign Secretary, accepted with the words 'You 
put a pistol at my head'. In the end, as Mr Asquith's biographers 
remark with some acidity, c there were not enough pistols to go 
round'.* After a meeting with the leaders of the Labour Party, Mr 
Lloyd George was confident that they also would furnish their sup- 
port. By the evening of the same day he was able to drive to Bucking- 
ham Palace in triumph: 

c Deccmber 7 Thursday,' the King wrote in his diary, 'Mr Lloyd 
George came at 7.30 & informed me that he is able to form an ad- 
ministration & told me the proposed names of his colleagues. He will 
have a strong Government I then appointed him Prime Minister & 
First Lord of the Treasury.' 

On Monday, December n, the retiring Ministers delivered up 

igi6 The German Peace offer 

their seals and their successors were sworn in. 1 The King, in affec- 
tionate sympathy for Mr Asquith, offered him the Garter: it was 
politely and gratefully refused. 

Mr Lloyd George had not been in office for twenty-four hours 

when it was learnt that Germany was about to make proposals for 
peace. Apart from their desire to sow dissension among the allies 
and to confuse public opinion in the United States, the German 
Government had three motives for selecting that particular moment. 
Although their armies appeared to be victorious everywhere, the 
civilian population, with hard winter months before them, were 
already feeling the strain of our blockade. President Wilson was 
known to be preparing a Note to all the belligerents asking them to 
state their peace terms; the Germans feared that this mightimplysome 
form of mediation and were anxious to take the wind out of the Presi- 
dent's sails. And in the third place the military party had already 

lr The following Ministers resigned with Mr Asquith: Sir Edward 
Grey (Lord Grey of Fallodon), Lord Crewe, Lord Buckmaster, Mr 
McKenna, Mr H. Samuel, Mr Runciman, and Mr Montagu. The follow- 
ing Unionists agreed to serve under Mr Lloyd George: Lord Curzon, 
Lord Finlay (Lord Chancellor), Mr Bonar Law (Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer), Sir George Cave (Home Office), Mr Balfour (Foreign Office), 
Mr Walter Long (Colonies), Mr Austen Chamberlain (India), Lord 
Derby (War Office), Sir A. Stanley (Board of Trade), Sir Edward Carson 
(Admiralty), Sir F. E. Smith (Attorney General), and Mr H. E. Duke 
(Ireland). Dr Addison became Minister of Munitions and Mr H. A. L. 
Fisher took the Board of Education. 

Mr Lloyd George introduced three innovations, (I) A War Cabinet 
consisting of Hi-pn^lf as chairman assisted by Lord Curzon, Lord Milner, 
Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr Bonar Law. (II) Several specialised new 
Ministries, namely: Shipping under Sir J. Maclay, Food under Lord 
Devonport and later under Lord Rhondda, Pensions under Mr George 
Barnes, Labour under Mr John Hodge, an Air Board under Lord Cow- 
dray, and a Ministry of National Service under Mr Neville Chamberlain. 
(Ill) A Cabinet Secretariat was established under Sir Maurice Hankey. 
Henceforward the handwritten reports furnished daily to the King by the 
Prime Minister were replaced by detailed minutes circulated to the King 
and the Cabinet. 

Mr Asquith's Coalition Government of 25 members had been com- 
posed of 14 Liberals, 10 Unionists and i Labour. Mr Lloyd George's 
Coalition Government, including Under Secretaries, comprised 33 mem- 
bers, of whom 15 were Unionists, 12 Liberals, 3 Labour, and 3 not mem- 
bers of either House of Parliament. 


The King advocates caution 1916 

decided on unrestricted submarine warfare and hoped by a prior 
peace gesture to muffle the shock which this decision would cause. 
The King, who was constantly receiving from his Danish friend, 
Mr H. N. Andersen, 1 first-hand information regarding internal con- 
ditions in Germany, was afraid that Mr Lloyd George, with his im- 
pulsive vehemence, might reject the German overture in terms of 
such violence as to strengthen the militarists in Berlin and alienate 
moderate opinion in the United States. He, therefore, in his own 
hand, addressed to him a tactful warning:* 

Buckingham Palace, December 13 
'Dear Prime Minister, 1916. 

The Press announcement that Germany is about to approach the 
Allies of the Entente with a Note embodying Peace Negotiations 
brings us to a critical stage, demanding the utmost care and delicate 
handling. In these circumstances I am sure you will agree that it is 
most desirable that no public utterances on this subject should be 
made in responsible quarters until the Note has been received, con- 
sidered by the Government, and their decision arrived at after con- 
sultation with the Allies. 

Meanwhile I trust it will be possible to prevent any question being 
put forward in Parliament until you can make your pronouncement. 
One misplaced word might do irreparable harm and I am sure you 
will be the first to recognize the supreme importance of safeguarding 
our position at this juncture. We must be most careful with regard to 
the United States.' 

The German Peace Note, when delivered through the American 
Embassy in London, proved to be a gesture rather than a concrete 
proposal. While affirming the 'indestructible strength* of Germany 
and her allies, the German Government vaguely suggested that the 
time had come to enter into peace negotiations. They did not, how- 
ever, give the slightest indication of the terms which they were pre- 

1 Mr Hans Niels Andersen (1852-1937) was a man of influence and 
wisdom. Born of working-class parents in the Danish island of Loland, he 
had served as a cabin boy in a brig trading to the Far East. When in Siam 
he had founded a shipping and timber business which eventually ex- 
panded into the East Asiatic Company. He was the first man to introduce 
Diesel engines into ships. He became an intimate friend of the 
Danish Royal Family and by them was introduced to King George, the 
German Emperor and the Tsar of Russia. During the war he conducted 
negotiations with the belligerent Governments on behalf of Danish trading 
interests and was constantly travelling between London, St Petersburg 
and Berlin. King George, as well as the British Foreign Office, held him in 
high esteem. 


/5/5-J9/7 United States Policy 

pared cither to offer or accept. The King still felt that our reply 
should be carefully considered and undramatic. On December 16 
he wrote again to Mr Lloyd George :* 

'At this critical time I am impressed with the feeling how urgently 
important it is that the Speech which you deliver in Parliament on the 
German Note should be couched in terms of the utmost dignity and 
statesmanship. The whole world will anxiously await and scrupulously 
weigh every word that falls from your lips. . . . We must not, even 
inadvertently, put ourselves in the wrong and we should endeavour to 
avoid alienating the sympathy of the moderate party in America. 
I am sure you will appreciate my anxiety in this matter.' 

Less than a week after the receipt of the German overture, 
President Wilson's formal Peace Note of December 18 was handed to 
each of the belligerent Powers. Some recapitulation will here be 
necessary if the circumstances of the President's intervention, which 
were widely misunderstood at the time, are rightly to be understood. 

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed without warning by 

a German submarine. Colonel House, 1 the President's friend and 
emissary, who was then in London, agreed with the Ambassador, Mr 
Page, that America's only reply to such an outrage must be a 
declaration of war: 

'Mr House', the King wrote in his diary for May 8, 'came to see me 
after luncheon & told me that he thinks America will most likely go 
to war with Germany on account of the drowning of so many Ameri- 
cans on bd. the Lusitania.' 

President Wilson was not of this opinion. In a speech which he 
delivered at Philadelphia on May 10 he declared that "there is such 
a thing as being too proud to fight'. The President, although a 
master of English prose, although inspired by imaginative and 
exalted ideas, was sometimes too self-centred to estimate the effect 
on others of his esoteric choice of words. The British public, 
anguished by an unsuccessful war, saw only that American citizens 
had been ruthlessly murdered; they failed to comprehend the 
President's humane hesitations; nor did they understand that he was 

1 Edward Manddl House (1858-1938). was born at Houston, Texas, 
and played an important part in the nomination of Woodrow Wilson in 
1912. He thereafter became the President's Ambassador at large, and 
owing to his discretion and sagacity exercised a great and beneficent 
influence in world affairs. For reasons which still remain somewhat 
mysterious he became estranged from the President in 1918. 


Colonel House's mission 1916 

faced in his own country by potent advocates of the 'Freedom of the 
Seas*, who regarded it as an equal outrage that the British Ad- 
miralty should, in their ever-increasing exercise of the blockade, 
violate what had hitherto been regarded as fundamental principles 
of international law. 

Instead, therefore, of treating the sinking of the Lusitania as a 
case for war, the President embarked upon an exchange of Notes 
with the German Government, who showed great ingenuity in 
confusing the issue by subsidiary arguments and thereby prolonging 
the controversy for several months. 

Early in 1916 Colonel House came to Europe on a second mission. 
He was received by the King on the morning of January 14: 

*I called at Buckingham Palace', he wrote,* e at eleven o'clock and had 
a pleasant hour with the King. He was not at all pessimistic as to the 
attitude of the United States, but, on the contrary, as soon as I ex- 
plained some doubts in his mind, he cordially agreed with our posi- 

The purpose of Colonel House's journey went beyond that of an 
ordinary visit of investigation. The complete victory of Germany 
would, he felt, be a disaster for world democracy: the complete 
victory of the Allies might mean that France, Russia and Italy 
would insist upon annexations and indemnities such as 'would not be 
in the interest of permanent peace 9 . 1 His aim was to elicit from the 
Allies a statement of their peace-terms such as would appeal to 
American and neutral opinion as reasonable and just. If the Ger- 
mans rejected these terms then 'America would enter the war 
against Germany*. 

The President accepted this formula but inserted the word 
'probably' between the words 'would 3 and 'enter* in the operative 
phrase. Colonel House had derived from a short visit to Berlin the 
impression that the German Government were determined to secure 
what he called 'a victory peace'. He placed all his hopes upon the 
British Government. Although Sir Edward Grey was personally in 
favour of his plan, the Cabinet did not fed that any peace negotia- 
tions could be entered into at a moment when our military fortunes 
were at so low an ebb. To the end of his life Colonel House main- 
tained that, by our hesitation in those early months of 1916, we 
destroyed all hope of a reasonable peace. 

Shortly after Colonel House's return to the United States the 
Germans sank the unarmed passenger ship, the Sussex, without 
warning. President Wilson threatened the rupture of diplomatic 

President Wilson's Peace Note 

relations unless the German Government 'should immediately 
declare and effect the abandonment of their present methods of sub- 
marine warfare'. The German Government gave the required 
assurances. An expectant pause followed. 

In .November 1916 President Wilson was elected for a second 
term. Having won his election mainly on the slogan c He kept us out 
of the War', he felt unable to resume the original plan and formula 
of Colonel House. The Note which he began to draft on November 2 1 
was, in so far as Germany was addressed, far less minatory. He was 
still drafting his Note when the Asquith Government fell and were 
succeeded by that of Mr Lloyd George. The latter was known to be 
opposed to all negotiation and President Wilson therefore hesitated 
to despatch his Note until he could ascertain the attitude of the new 
British Government. He was still hesitating when the Germans 
launched their own Peace Note of December 12. The President then 
modified his original draft and despatched it on December 18. 

It was not a happy document. Instead of offering mediation, it 
merely invited the belligerent Powers to state their peace terms and 
suggested an c interchange of views'. It contained one phrase which 
was resented by the Allied peoples. In his first draft the President 
had inserted the sentence "The cause and objects of the war are 
obscure*. Colonel House pointed out that such words would cause 
deep offence. The President therefore altered them in his final draft 
to read 'the objects which the belligerents on both sides have in mind 
are virtually the same'. The British public were outraged by this 
assertion, since it seemed to place them on the same footing as the 
German aggressors. The King, according to Mr Page, was so angered 
by this sentence that he Svept while expressing his surprise and 
depression'. 1 * Nor did President Wilson improve matters by sending 
a message to the Senate on January 22, 1917, pleading for 'peace 
without victory', and on the basis of self-determination. But in any 
case the Allied terms, when communicated to Washington, proved so 
drastic that any 'interchange of views' became, given the existing 
military situation, utterly impossible. 1 

x The Allied terms were: The restoration of Belgium, Serbia and Monte- 
negro : the evacuation of invaded territory in France, Russia and Rumania 
with just reparation: the cession of Alsace-Lorraine; self-determination for 
subject nationalities in Austria, Hungary and Turkey: the exclusion of die 
latter from Europe: and an international convention to provide security 
against further aggression. No mention was made of colonial distribution. 

The German terms, which were privately communicated to President 

K2 297 

America declares war 1917 

On January 31, 1917, the dispute between Germany and the 
United States entered a quick and final phase. The Germans had for 
long believed that their only hope of winning the war was to starve 
Great Britain into submission. They fully realised that a resort to 
unrestricted submarine warfare would result in the United States 
entering the war against them. But they calculated that Great 
Britain could be brought to her knees before a sufficient number of 
American troops could be trained, equipped, or transported to 
Europe. Their 'estimate, as will be seen, was not quite so fantastic as 
has sometimes been asserted. 

On February i, 1917, the Germans announced that thencefor- 
ward their submarines would impose an unrestricted blockade on 
Great Britain. On February 3, President Wilson broke off diplomatic 
relations. He was still waiting, however, for an 'overt act*. On 
February 26 the British Intelligence Service intercepted, and 
immediately communicated to Washington, a message to the Ger- 
man Minister in Mexico City, instructing him to offer the Mexican 
Government, in return for an alliance against the United States, the 
sundered provinces of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. On the 
same day the steamer Laconia was torpedoed with the loss of Ameri- 
can lives. On April 2 President Wilson came to Congress and invited 
them to declare the existence of a State of War between the United 
States and Germany. c lt is a fearful thing*, he said, 6 to lead this great 
peaceful people into war. 9 

On Saturday, April 7, the King made a laconic entry in his 

'Windsor Castle. Six degrees of frost in the night. The United States of 
America declared war against Germany yesterday by a large majority 
in the Congress: 373 to 50.' 


To the historian, with his knowledge of subsequent developments, 
the acquisition of so potent an associate as the United States appears 
as a miraculous solace for the simultaneous elimination of Russia. 
The peoples and statesmen of the time did not estimate this dual 

Wilson by the German Ambassador, included: the restoration of Belgium 
'under special guarantees for the safety of Germany* : restitution of French 
territory, in return for frontier rectifications and compensation to be paid 
to Germany by France: Germany and Poland to receive in the east a 
frontier which would protect them strategically and economically against 
Russia: the return of the German colonies: and the Freedom of the Seas. 

1917 The Russian Revolution 

event in terms either of such gigantic profit or such disastrous loss. 
Relieved though they were that the United States had at last rallied 
to the cause of democracy, they did not foresee the speed or weight 
of American assistance. To them the Russian Revolution portended, 1 
not the quick disintegration of mighty armies, but the abolition of an 
autocratic system, the incompetence and corruption of which had 
hitherto prevented Russia from fully exercising her enormous power. 
The general feeling was reflected in a telegram addressed on March 
21 by Mr Lloyd George to the head of the Provisional Government 
in Petrograd. In this message the British Prime Minister expressed 
the 'sentiments of the most profound satisfaction* with which the 
peoples of Great Britain and the British Dominions had welcomed 
the adoption by Russia of Responsible government*. He described the 
Revolution as e the greatest service that the Russian people have yet 
made to the cause for which the Allies are fighting'. The King 
intimated to Mr Lloyd George that he regarded the wording of this 
message as 'a little strong 9 . The Prime Minister explained that his 
telegram had, c to a considerable extent', been drafted by the 
Russian Charg d j Affaires, M. Constantine Nabokov. - 2 

On hearing that the Tsar had abdicated, the King sent him the 
following telegram of personal sympathy: 

Buckingham Palace, March 19, 1917. Events of last week have deeply 
distressed me. My thoughts are constantly with you and I shall always 
remain your true and devoted friend, as you know I have been in the 

1 The main dates of the Russian Revolution are as follows: December 
29, 1916, Rasputin murdered. 1917: January, the Duma is adjourned 
and the Congress of Zemstvos at Moscow is prohibited; March 8, 
the Tsar leaves for his headquarters; March 9-11, bread riots in Petro- 
grad; March 12, Guards regiment mutiny and Winter Palace and fortress 
of St Peter and Paul are stormed; March 15, the Tsar abdicates in favour 
of his brother; Provisional Government established under Prince Lvov; 
March 22, the Emperor taken to Tsarskoe where he and his family are 
placed under arrest; April 4, Lenin arrives at the Finland Station; July, 
Bolshevik rising in Petrograd crushed by Kerensky; Kornilov attempts 
counter-revolution; August, the Tsar and his family transferred to 
Tobolsk; November 7, Bolshevik Revolution. 19181 January 4, Bolsheviks 
sign Treaty of Brest Litovsk with the Germans; July 16, Tsar and his 
family murdered at Ekaterinburg. 

2 Count Benckendorff, the highly esteemed Russian Ambassador, had 
died of influenza in London in January 1917. No successor was appointed 
either by the Tsarist or the Provisional Government and the Russian 
Embassy remained for long in the hands of a Chargd d'Affaires. 


The Kings telegram to the Tsar 1917 

This message was telegraphed by the War Office to Major- 
General Sir John Hanbury Williams, British Military Representative 
at Russian Headquarters. It arrived after the Tsar had been removed 
from Mohilev under arrest. Sir John therefore repeated the King's 
telegram to Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador at Petrograd, 
who handed it to M. Miliukov, Foreign Minister in the Provisional 
Government, with the request that it might be forwarded to the Tsar. 
The next day M. Miliukov sent for Sir George Buchanan and in- 
formed him that he thought it better not to send on the telegram as it 
'might be misinterpreted and used as an argument in favour of (the 
Tsar's) detention* * The Ambassador reported this statement to the 
Foreign Office in an official telegram which was circulated to the 
Cabinet The Prime Minister's secretary then telephoned to the 
Palace asking to be furnished with the original text of the King's 
message. The King replied that, since his telegram to the Tsar was 
a private and unofficial communication, he did not feel disposed to 
communicate its text to the Cabinet, although he would be pleased to 
let the Prime Minister see the telegram if he so desired. In any case, 
since the message had never been delivered to the Tsar, he felt that 
it should now be cancelled. A telegram was sent to Sir George 
Buchanan to that effect* 

This comparatively trivial incident rendered it evident that any 
efforts the King could make to comfort and assist his unfortunate 
cousin might, unless cautiously handled, embarrass the moderate 
elements in the Russian Provisional Government and even be mis- 
interpreted at home. On March 19 Sir George Buchanan had been 
officially instructed to inform M. Miliukov that 'any violence done 
to the Emperor or his family would have a most deplorable effect and 
would deeply shock public opinion in this country*. M. Miliukov, 
who was desperately anxious for the Imperial family to leave Russia, 
fearing that their lives might be endangered in the event of a 
counter-revolution, enquired whether the British Government 
would be willing to grant them an asylum in England. At a meeting 
which took place at Downing Street on March 22 between the 
Prime Minister, Mr Bonar Law, Lord Stamfordham and Lord 
Hardinge, 1 it was agreed that, since the proposal had been initiated 
by the Russian Government, it could not possibly be refused. Sir 
George Buchanan was therefore instructed to inform M. Miliukov 

1 On his return from India Lord Hardinge, in June 1916, had suc- 
ceeded Sir Arthur Nicolson as Permanent Under Secretary for Foreign 

/9/7 Objections to the Tsar coming to England 

that asylum would be granted to the Imperial family in England for 
the duration of the war. r 

The King, who would have preferred the Tsar and his wife to 
find refuge in Switzerland or Denmark, doubted the wisdom of this 
arrangement. On March 30 he instructed Lord Stamfordham to 
write to the Foreign Secretary: 8 

'The Kong has been thinking much about the Government's proposal 
that the Emperor Nicholas and his family should come to England. As 
you are doubtless aware, the King has a strong personal friendship for 
the Emperor and therefore would be glad to do anything to help Him 
in this crisis. But His Majesty cannot help doubting not only on 
account of the dangers of the voyage, but on general grounds of 
expediency, whether it is advisable that the Imperial Family should 
take up their residence in this country. The King would be glad if 
you would consult the Prime Minister, as His Majesty understands 
that no definite decision has yet been come to on the subject by the 
Russian Government.' 

Mr Balfour replied on April 2 :* 

'His Majesty's Ministers quite realize the difficulties to which you 
refer in your letter, but they do not think, unless the position changes, 
that it is now possible to withdraw the invitation which has been sent, 
and they therefore trust that the King will consent to adhere to the 
original invitation, which was sent on the advice of His Majesty's 

By this time the suggestion that the Tsar and his family should 
be given asylum in this country had become publicly known. Much 
indignation was expressed in left-wing circles and the King, who was 
unjustly supposed to be the originator of the proposal, received many 
abusive letters. Sir George Buchanan, moreover, pointed out that 
the presence of the Imperial family in England would assuredly be 
exploited to our detriment by the extremists as well as by the German 
agents in Russia. The King felt that these disadvantages had not 
been sufficiently considered by the Government. On April 10, he 
instructed Lord Stamfordham again to suggest to the Prime Minister 
that, since public opinion was evidently opposed to the proposal, 
the Russian Government might be informed that His Majesty's 
Government felt obliged to withdraw the consent which they had 
previously given: 

C I reminded the Prime Minister', Lord Stamfordham recorded," 
'about what had been said as to the King's attitude regarding the King 
of Greece, and the exception taken to His Majesty having received the 
brothers of King Constantine when they were in London. And I said 


The fate of the Russian Imperial Family 

that no doubt we should have similar complaints respecting the 
Emperor and Empress, who, of course, the King would see if they 
came to England: as not only are they His Majesty's relations but the 
Emperor has been a staunch friend and Ally of this Country ever 
since he ascended the Throne twenty-three years ago. I added that 
even if the Government publicly stated that they took the responsi- 
bility for Their Imperial Majesties coming, the People would reply 
that this was done to screen the King. 9 

Mr Lloyd George now realised that the question of asylum was 
more difficult than he had* first supposed. Since M. Painlev6, the 
French Minister of War, happened at that moment to be in Downing 
Street he was called in to consultation and asked whether the French 
Government would give the Russian Royal Family asylum in 
France. He replied in the affirmative and a telegram was thus sent 
to Sir George Buchanan instructing him to place this alternative 
suggestion before M. Miliukov. But by then the influence of the 
moderate elements in Russia had been already undermined. 

It is doubtful whether, even if immediate action had been taken, 
the escape of the Imperial Family could have been contrived. The 
Tsar, who was fatalistically blind to the coming danger, would pro- 
bably have refused to leave Russian soil; and in any case his children 
were ill at the time and unable to travel. After the first few weeks 
M. Miliukov and his friends were without real power and the 
soldiers and workers would have prevented the Tsar's departure by 
force. In August 1917 the Imperial family were removed to Tobolsk. 
On April 15, 1918, they were taken under harsher custody to 
Ekaterinburg. It was there, on the night of July 16-17, JQ 1 ^ that 
they were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the house of the engineer 


The King, although he much admired Mr Lloyd George's 
energy, resourcefulness and moral courage, although he was charmed 
by the Prime Minister's humour and vivacity, was apprehensive of 
his unorthodox methods and distressed by his failure to establish 
relations of confidence with Sir Douglas Haig or Sir William 

The tension between the soldiers and the politicians reached a 
climax in February 1917. General Nivelle, 1 who had succeeded 

1 General Nivelle (1856-1924) had acquired renown by repulsing the 
initial German attack on Verdun and by later recapturing the fort of 
Douaumont. He succeeded General Joffre in December 1916. 



ip/7 The Calais Conference 

General Joffre as Commander in Chief of the French armies, had 
planned for that year a synchronised offensive upon all fronts. Mr 
Lloyd George desired that, for the purpose of this offensive, the 
British Army should be placed under General Nivelle's orders. A 
conference between British and French ministers and generals was 
due to take place at Calais on February 26, for the ostensible purpose 
of discussing transport arrangements. At a Cabinet meeting held on 
February 24, to which neither the Secretary of State for War nor the 
C.I.G.S. were invited, the Prime Minister was authorised to take the 
occasion of the Calais Conference to secure unity of command. The 
King, the Generals and the Secretary of State for War were not, at 
the time, informed of this decision. Accompanied by Sir William 
Robertson, the Prime Minister on February 26 left for Calais, where 
he was joined by Sir Douglas Haig, M. Briand, General Nivelle and 
General Lyautey. 1 The Conference assembled that afternoon in a 
sitting-room at the Hotel Terminus. In a letter which he wrote to 
the King on February 28* Sir Douglas Haig furnished a detailed 
account of what transpired. 

After the transport problems had been rapidly disposed of, 2 Mr 
Lloyd George invited General Nivelle to disclose his plans for the 
forthcoming campaign. Sir Douglas Haig's letter continues: 

'When Nivelle had finished, L.G. insisted that he (Nivelle) had some- 
thing further to put before the meeting. Eventually the question of 
"Command on the Western Front" was discussed, but evidently not in 
the manner which L.G. had hoped, for finally he said that he would 
like the French to formulate their proposals in writing and requested 
them to give him a copy by dinner time. It was then within an hour of 
dinner, so I presumed the paper had already been prepared. Indeed, 
this must have been the case, because later in the evening L.G. told 
Robertson and myself that the British Cabinet had discussed the 

French proposal a few days previously That same evening I saw 

Mr Lloyd George with General Robertson and I told the former that I 
could be no party to placing the British Army in France under a 
French Commander in Chief and that it would be madness to attempt 

1 General Lyautey (1854-1934) remained Minister of War for only 
three months. His real work was the pacification of Morocco and the 
establishment of the French Protectorate on a sound basis. He was made a 
Marshal of France in 1 92 1 . 

2 Mr Lloyd George in his War Memoirs does not devote to the Calais 
Conference the same detailed examination that he accords to other 
transactions. 'Transport', he says, 'occupied much of our time 9 (Vol. Ill, 
page 1 502). 

Sir Douglas Haig's letter 

such a thing and hope to win the war. I gave a few reasons and spoke 
plainly. Mr Lloyd George agreed that the French proposals went too 
far, but informed us that the British Cabinet had decided that for the 
forthcoming operations the British Army should be directly under 
General Nivelle to take his orders. He asked General Robertson and 
myself to help him to comply with this decision by drawing up a 

The next morning a compromise arrangement was accepted, 
under which, during the preparatory stages, Sir Douglas Haig was 
not bound to accept General Nivelle's directives, although, once the 
battle was engaged, he must conform to the orders of the French 
Commander in Chief, while reserving for himself *a free hand to 
choose the means and methods of utilising the British troops in that 
sector of operations allotted by the French Commander in Chief'. 
Since this compromise did not go much beyond the arrangements 
which had always existed between the French and the British com- 
manders, Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson felt justified 
in signing the document. But they were left with the disturbing im- 
pression that, with French connivance, the Prime Minister had 
intended to present them with an accomplished fact: 

'I think 9 , Sir Douglas Haig's letter continued, 'that, as the actual 
document stands, no great difficulty should occur in carrying on just 
as I have been doing, provided there is not something behind it. It is for 
this reason that I have written so fully, in order that Your Majesty may 
be watchful and prevent any steps being taken which will result in our 
Army being broken up and incorporated in a French corps. . . . 

Your Majesty will observe that in my dealings with Mr Lloyd 
George over this question I have never suggested that I should like to 
resign my Command, but on the contrary I have done my utmost to 
meet the views of the Government, as any change of Command at this 
time might be a disadvantage to the Army in the Field. It is possible 
however that the present War Cabinet may think otherwise and deem 
it best to replace me with someone more in their confidence. If this is 
so, I recommend that the change be made as soon as possible because 
of the proximity of the date fixed for the commencement of operations. 

At this great crisis in our History, my sole object is to serve my 
King and Country wherever I can be of most use, and with fiill con- 
fidence I leave myself in Your Majesty's hands to decide what is best 
for me to do at this juncture.' 

This assuredly was a difficult letter for any Constitutional Mon- 
arch to answer. The reply which, by His Majesty's command, Lord 
Stamfordham returned was a masterly combination of tact and 
propriety: w 


9/7 The King's reply 

Buckingham Palace, 

'My dear Haig, March 51917. 

The King desires me to thank you for your Secret letter of the 28th 
February. You can well understand it was anything but agreeable 
reading to His Majesty. The King was unaware either that the ques- 
tion of the Command on the Western Front had been discussed at the 
War Cabinet Meeting on Saturday 24th February, or that it was to 
be the principal matter for consideration at the Calais Conference, It 
was not until the 28th February that His Majesty received the Minutes 
of the Meeting of the 24th, and later in the afternoon a copy of the 
Calais Agreement was sent to His Majesty within half an hour of his 
receiving the Prime Minister. Had the ordinary procedure been fol- 
lowed and the King informed of this momentous change in the conduct 
of the Campaign His Majesty would have unquestionably demanded 
further explanation before giving his consent to the proposal. 

On my remarking to the Prime Minister that the Agreement con- 
ferred very extended powers to General Nivelle, he replied that these 
were concurred in by Sir William Robertson, and that both you and 
he had signed the Agreement. 

The King recognises the paramount necessity of guarding against 
any possibility of the French in the event of the attack failing being 
able to lay the blame upon us. But at the same time His Majesty con- 
siders that it would have been possible to entrust the general direction 
and carrying out of the scheme to General Nivelle, while you gave 
effect to the instructions which you received from Lord Kitchener on 
taking over Command of the British Forces. 

His Majesty appreciates the reasons which led you, at the request 
of the Prime Minister, to sign the Calais Agreement, but feels that 
your having done so it would be prudent now not to discuss these 
terms, but to take advantage of the period before the "move" begins 
to clear up with General Nivelle all points upon which you are doubt- 
ful or not satisfied. Apparently this would not be difficult as the King 
understands that General Nivelle more than once during the Con- 
ference disclaimed any dissatisfaction on his part or any desire for the 
holding of the Conference. 

The King begs you to dismiss from your mind any idea of resigna- 
tion. Such a course would be in His Majesty's opinion disastrous to his 
Army and to the hopes of success in the coming supreme struggle. You 
have the absolute confidence of that Army from the highest to the 
lowest rank: a confidence which is shared to the full by the King. 
Such a step would never have His Majesty's consent, nor does he 
believe that it is one entertained for a moment by his Government. 

The King is sorry to think that in the few weeks which yet remain 
for the completion of your arrangements for the Attack your mind 
should be occupied and disturbed by a matter which everyone 
naturally presumed would have been settled as a primary factor in the 
initiation of this important and far reaching undertaking. 

In conclusion I am to say from His Majesty you are not to worry: 


The Nioelle offensive 19/7 

you may be certain that he will do his utmost to protect your interests, 
and he begs you to continue to work on the most amicable and open 
terms with General Nivelle, and he feels all will come right.' 

The great concerted offensives which General Nivelle had 
planned for 1917 proved a failure. In the East, the Russian armies 
were in process of disintegration; the Italians, who remained 
quiescent during the spring and summer, were in the late autumn 
badly shaken by the defeat of Caporetto; in the West, the Germans 
anticipated the allied offensive by cutting off their salient and with- 
drawing to the Siegfried line. Many French units mutinied and as a 
result General Nivelle was replaced by General P&ain. The brunt 
of the campaign fell upon the British armies, whose fine successes, 
the Battle of Arras, the capture of the Messines Ridge, and the tank 
surprise at Cambrai were clouded by the mud and misery of 




The effect of the Russian Revolution Attacks upon the Monarchy in 
Great Britain Lord Stamfordham's equable attitude The Royal 
House becomes the 'House of Windsor' The Irish Convention The 
attempts to induce Austria to make a separate peace Prince Sixte of 
Bourbon-Parma The Reichstag Resolution and the Pope's Peace 
N te Lord Lansdowne's letter The King's solicitude for our 
prisoners of war and his dislike of reprisals General Pershing 
arrives Mr Lloyd George's appreciation of the war situation 
The Mesopotamia Report The King's defence of Lord Hardinge 
Renewed differences between Mr Lloyd George and Sir William 
Robertson The King tries in vain to persuade the latter not to 
resign The Ludendorff offensive The King's last visit^ to the 
Front The beginning of the end The surrender of Bulgaria The 
collapse of Germany The armistice. 


THE collapse of the Tsarist system spread tremors of alarm or 
expectation throughout the world. Those who, until then, had hoped 
that the advent of socialism would be so gradual as to be almost 
painless were startled by the spectre of imminent and ruthless 
change. The proletariate, shaken out of acquiescence by sudden 
visions of world solidarity and power, were roused to a sense of 
exciting and urgent opportunity. Even in Great Britain where 
Republicanism was assumed to have died in 1872, there were some 
who exploited the occasion to deride the monarchical tradition and 
to advocate an English Revolution upon Russian lines. 

On March 31, 1917, a mass meeting was held in the Albert Hall, 
under the chairmanship of Mr George Lansbury, to celebrate the fall 
of Tsardom. Although the speeches delivered were comparatively 
innocuous, the Censor prohibited any detailed reports of the meeting, 
an error that permitted all manner of rumours and suspicions to 
creep around. On April 21 Mr H. G. Wells addressed to The Times 
a letter asserting that the moment had come to rid ourselves of *ihe 
ancient trappings of throne and sceptre 9 and urging that Republican 
societies should immediately be formed. In another connection Mr 
Wells referred to the sad spectacle of England struggling through 


Internal ferment 79/7 

adversity under 'an alien and uninspiring Court*. The King was 
incensed by this imputation. *I may be uninspiring/ he remarked 

to a visitor, 'but I'll be d d if I'm alien.' On May 23 a letter, 

above the signatures of Mr Ramsay MacDonald and other left-wing 
socialists, was circulated to Trades Unions and Labour organisa- 
tions, inviting them to send delegates to a Convention to be held at 
Leeds on June 3. This letter announced, not only that the Convention 
would c do for this country what the Russian Revolution had accom- 
plished in Russia', but that it would call for the establishment of 
'Councils of Workmen's and Soldiers' delegates' throughout the 
land. 6 

Lord Stamfordham, with his accustomed sense of balance, did 
not exaggerate these symptoms of ferment. He had his own clear 
views as to the proper function of a Constitutional Monarchy in a 
changing world : c 

*We must endeavour to induce the thirjldng working classes, Socialist 
and others, to regard the Crown, not as a mere figure-head and as an 
institution which, as they put it, "don't count", but as a living power 
for good, with receptive faculties welcoming information affecting the 
interests and social well-being of all classes, and ready, not only to 
sympathise with those questions, but anxious to further their solution. 
Regarding Labour troubles and industrial disputes, I know, of course, 
that the role of arbitrator is not one which the Sovereign can adopt, but 
if opportunities are seized, during His Majesty's visits to industrial 
centres, in conversation with the workmen, to show his interest in such 
problems as employers and employed will have to solve, these men will 
recognise in the Crown those characteristics may I say "virtues"? 
which I have ventured to enumerate above.' 

Mr Lloyd George in his War Memoirs* pays a further tribute to 
the King's initiative in visiting industrial areas at a moment of 
disaffection and unrest: 

"There can be no question that one outstanding reason for the high 
level of loyalty and patriotic effort which the people of this country 

maintained was the attitude and conduct of King George In 

estimating the value of the different factors which conduced to the 
maintenance of our home front in 1917, a very high place must be 
given to the affection inspired by the King and the unremitting 
diligence with which he set himself in those dark days to discharge the 
function of his high office.' 

Lord Stamfordham warmly encouraged the King's desire to 
move freely and frequently among his people. He was fully cogni- 
sant of the criticisms which, in the confused and restless state of 

/9/7 The mme of the Dynasty 

public opinion, were then being made. Not only did he read the 
newspapers of every shade and colour but he was in constant com- 
munication with such people as Mr St Loe Strachey, Colonel Uns- 
worth of the Salvation Army, Mr Hagberg Wright, the Bishop of 
Ghelmsford or Canon Woodward, Rector of Southwark, whose 
activities brought them into touch with different sections of the 
community. The only rumour which seems to have disturbed his 
equanimity was the suggestion that the King was surrounded by a 
complacent phalanx of courtiers, who carefully concealed from him 
all unpleasant facts: 

'Even at the risk', he wrote to Lord Revelstoke in June 1917,* 'of 
being egotistical, I unhesitatingly can say that I do not believe that 
there is any Sovereign in the world to whom the truth is more fearlessly 
told and who receives it with such good will and even gratitude as 
King George/ There is no Socialist newspaper, no libellous rag, that is 
not read and marked and shown to the King if they contain any 
criticism friendly or unfriendly to His Majesty and the Royal Family. 
As to "counteracting insidious propaganda", I venture to think that 
no better course can be followed than that the King should adhere to 
those lines of duty to the State and of strict observance of his Con- 
stitutional position which have been His Majesty's guiding principles 
during the exceptionally stormy and arduous seven years of his reign.' 

The King, as his tutors had observed when he was a boy, was 
sensitive to criticism, essentially diffident and prone to discourage- 
ment. The phrase of some impatient intellectual, the gibes of some 
weary commentator, rankled unduly. When in May 1917 he was 
told that it was whispered that he must be pro-German since he and 
his family had German names, "he started and grew pale'/ Lord 
Stamfordham, when appealed to, was forced to admit that many 
members of the Royal Family did in fact bear names of Teutonic 
origin. Mr Farnham Burke of the Royal College of Heralds was then 
consulted and asked what was in fact the King's own name. He was 
not quite positive. He was certain it was not c Stewart'; he doubted 
whether it was 'Gudph'; he surmised that it must be either 'Wipper* 
or 'Wettin'. The King decided that some new name must be 
adopted. Several alternatives were considered. The Duke of Con- 
naught suggested 'Tudor-Stewart'; both Lord Rosebery and Mr 
Asquith felt that such a name might have inauspicious associations. 
The names 'Plantagenet', 'York', 'England', 'Lancaster', 'D'Este' 
and 'Fitzroy* were all in their turn considered and rejected. Finally 
Lord Stamfordham, having discovered that at one time Edward III 
had been called 'Edward of Windsor*, suggested this natural English 


The House of Windsor 

name. It was immediately welcomed. 1 On July 17 the following 
announcement was approved by the Privy Council and published in 
the Press on the morning of July 18: 

'We, of Our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and 
announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our 
House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family 
of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said 
Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other 
than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall 
bear the said Name of Windsor: 

And do hereby further declare and announce that We for Our- 
selves and for and on behalf of Our descendants and all other descend- 
ants of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of 
these Realms, relinquish and enjoin the discontinuance of the use of 
the degrees, styles, dignities, titles and honours of Dukes and Duchesses 
of Saxony and Princes and Princesses of Saxe-Goburg and Gotha, and 
all other German degrees, styles, dignitaries, titles, honours and 
appellations to Us or to them heretofore belonging or appertaining. 8 

1 *Do you realize 5 wrote Lord Rosebery to Lord Stamfordham on 
June 26, 'that you have christened a dynasty? There are few people in the 
world who have done this, none I think. It is really something to be 
historically proud of. I admire and envy you 9 (R A. 0. 1 153, XVI, 354) . 

2 The members of the Royal Family who were residing in England and 
who bore German titles were at the same time invited to relinquish these 
titles and to adopt British surnames. Thus the King's two brothers-in-law, 
the Duke of Teck and Prince Alexander of Teck, became respectively Mar- 
quis of Cambridge and Earl of Athlone with the family name of Cam- 
bridge. The King's two cousins, Prince Louis of Battenberg and Prince 
Alexander of Battenberg, became respectively Marquis of Milford Haven 
and Marquis of Carisbrooke, with the family name of Mountbatten. 

The King took the opportunity to define and restrict the use of the 
tides c Royal Highness', 'Prince' and 'Princess*. Letters Patent gazetted on 
December 1 1, 1917, declared that: 

'The children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom, and the 

children of the sons of any such Sovereign, and the eldest living son of 

the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, shall have and at all times hold 

and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness, with their 

titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective 

Christian names, or with their other titles of honour. That, save as 

aforesaid, the tides of Royal Highness, Highness, or Serene Highness 

and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess shall cease, except these 

titles already granted and remaining unrevoked. 9 

It was 'tacitly understood* that in accepting peerages of the United 

Kingdom and thereby entering the House of Lords these members of the 

Royal Family 'would not identify themselves with any political Party*. 

(Lord Stamfordham to Mr George Barnes, June 19, 1917. RA. 

rv; 109.) 

The Irish Conoention 


On March 7, 1917, the Prime Minister wrote to the King, stating 
that he had received information that Mr Redmond and his follow- 
ers, being alarmed by the increasing influence of Sinn Fein, intended 
to stage a demonstration in the House of Commons and to issue some 
sort of appeal to the Dominions, the United States and neutral 
countries. In order to anticipate such action the Cabinet had 
decided that it would be wise 'to put ourselves right with the 
civilised world'. He proposed therefore to make an immediate 
statement in Parliament, offering Home Rule c to that part of Ireland 
that wants if, while adding that no British Government could 'now 
or at any time hand over Ulster to the rest of Ireland against its 
willV The King replied that he considered this c an excellent idea*. 
Mr Lloyd George made his statement that very afternoon. Mr Red- 
mond and his Party, protesting that they would never accept the 
partition of Ireland, walked out of the House. 

On May i Mr Lloyd George offered Mr Redmond two, alterna- 
tives, either immediate Home Rule with the exclusion of Ulster, or 
the summoning of an Irish Convention, representing all parties and 
shades of opinion and empowered to discuss, and to submit to the 
Imperial Parliament, a scheme for the future self-government of 
Ireland within the Empire. Mr Redmond rejected the first alterna- 
tive but accepted .the second. The Sinn Fein leaders immediately 
announced that they would boycott the Convention. 

On June 1 1 the Prime Minister announced the composition of the 
Convention. It was to consist of 101 representative Irishmen, in- 
cluding the Irish Nationalists, the Ulster Protestants, the Southern 
Unionists, the Roman Catholic Bishops and the Protestant Arch- 
bishops of Armagh and Dublin. The Government reserved for them- 
selves the right of nominating the Chairman as well as fifteen 
prominent non-party Irishmen* Among those thus nominated were 
Dr Mahaflfy, the President of Trinity College, and Mr George 
Russell. As a gesture of amity and good faith the Irish deportees 
interned after the Easter rising were immediately to be released: 

'Very glad*, the King wrote to Lord Stemfordham,* e that the Govern- 
ment are going to grant an amnesty to the Irish prisoners as it ought to 
help the Convention. I see it is to be announced in the House today & 
I have never been asked for my approval. Usual way things are done 
in present day. I better join the King of Greece in exile!* l 

1 After the events of December i, 1916, the Protecting Powers insisted 
that the Greek Army should be withdrawn to the Peloponnesus. In June 


Failure of the Convention *9 X 7 

On July 25 the Convention assembled in Trinity College, Dublin. 
Sir Horace Plunkett 1 was elected Chairman and Sir Francis Hop- 
wood 2 secretary. The deliberations of the Convention continued over 
the ensuing seven months. Several Committees were established and 
investigations were conducted, and evidence taken, both in Cork and 
Belfast. On November 21, 1917, the Grand Committee of the Con- 
vention issued a report suggesting that there should be one Parlia- 
ment for the whole of Ireland, the Protestants both in the North and 
South being guaranteed 40% representation in the Lower House. 
This solution was rejected by the representatives of Ulster and the 
Southern Unionists. On April 5, 1918, the majority of the Conven- 
tion recommended a scheme under which there should be one 
Parliament for the whole of Ireland with an executive to be respon- 
sible to it. Foreign Affairs and Defence were to be reserved for the 
Imperial Parliament, but the Irish Parliament were to have control 
over Finance. The Protestants of the North were resolute in their 
determination not to surrender the control of Finance to a Dublin 
Parliament. It was on this rock, essentially, that the Convention was 

During the whole period that the Convention lasted the King 
received from its Chairman, Sir Horace Plunkett, regular, volumin- 

1917 M. Jonnart, as High Commissioner, appeared at Athens with a 
powerful naval squadron and demanded the deposition of King Con- 
stantine. He suggested that the latter with his wife and family should find 
asylum in the Isle of Wight. This proposal aroused King George's 'strong 
disapproval' (R.A. 0,838, 177). On June 12, 1917, King Constantino, 
with his wife and eldest son, retired to Switzerland, leaving the second son 
Alexander upon the throne. The latter died of blood poisoning after a 
short and lonely reign and in December 1920 King Constantine was 
recalled to Athens by plebiscite. After the disaster in Asia Minor he was a 
second time deposed, being succeeded by the Crown Prince George. He 
died at Palermo on January 1 1, 1923. 

1 Sir Horace Plunkett (1854-1932) devoted his Jife to the Irish agri- 
cultural cooperative movement. His political ambition was to keep Ire- 
land united within the British Commonwealth. In 1922 he accepted 
membership of the Irish Senate, but resigned a year later after his house in 
Co. Dublin had been burned down by the rebels. He then retired to Wey- 
bridge, where he died. 

2 Sir Francis Hopwood had been Permanent Secretary at the Board of 
Trade and the Colonial Office. From 1912-1917 he served as a Civil Lord 
of the Admiralty. He accompanied King George on his visit to Canada 
as Prince of Wales in 1908. He was an intimate friend of Lord Stamford- 
ham who frequently benefited by his wide knowledge and sagacious 
advice. In 191 7 he was raised to the Peerage as Lord Southborough. 


/9/7 Attempts to detach Austria 

ous and optimistic reports. Sir Francis Hopwood did not share this 
optimism. He repeatedly warned Lord Stamfordham against all 
sanguine expectations. Mr Redmond had, he said, lost all influence 
in Ireland and Sinn Fein would never accept anything that the Con- 
vention, even if it proved unanimous, might recommend: 

'There must', he wrote on October 27, 1917,* e be another episode of 
blood & tears & sorrow & shame before we can settle this difficult 


The Kong was kept fully informed of the tentatives made through- 
out the year 1917 and the early months of 1918, to detach Austria 
from the German alliance. The old Emperor Francis Joseph died on 
November 21, 1916, after a reign of sixty-eight years. He was suc- 
ceeded by his great-nephew Charles, who had married Princess Zita 
of Bourbon-Parma and who was known to be anxious to extract 
Austria from the war before the Hapsburg Empire dissolved into its 
component parts. The difficulty was, not only that Germany had by 
then acquired practical control over Austrian policy, but that Italy, 
who had been promised large slices of Austrian territory as payment 
for her entry into the war, was determined to veto any terms such as 
Austria could accept. 

In February 1917 Sir Francis Hopwood was sent on a secret 
mission to Copenhagen, where it was hoped that, with Mr Andersen's 
assistance, he could establish contact with Count Mensdorff. The 
Germans got wind of this manoeuvre and Count Mensdorff felt it 
more prudent to remain aloof. In the same month Prince Sixte of 
Bourbon-Parma, the Austrian Emperor's brother-in-law, visited 
M. Poincar6 and enquired on what terms France would be prepared 
to make peace. M. Poincar6 demanded the cession to France of 
Alsace Lorraine and the Saar basin, the restoration of Belgium and 
Serbia, and the acquisition by Russia of Constantinople. On March 
20 the Emperor Charles wrote to his brother-in-law in his own hand- 
writing, accepting these proposals, but stating that the future of 
Constantinople must depend upon the establishment of settled 
Government in Russia. 1 At the Conference of St. Jean de Maurienne 
in April Baron Sonnino, the Italian Foreign Minister, was informed 

1 This letter from the Emperor of Austria was published by M. 
Clemenceau in April 1918. The Emperor strenuously, but fruitlessly, 
denied its authenticity. 


General Smuts' mission 
of these overtures: he became scarlet with indignation and de- 
nounced any negotiations with Austria which did not include the 
full acceptance of Italy's territorial demands. The idea of detaching 
Austria continued none the less to exercise a fascination over Mr 
Lloyd George and President Wilson. Mr Lloyd George invited 
Prince Sixte to London and on May 23 took him to see the King: 

'At 3.0 the Prime Minister brought Prince Sixte of Bourbon (brother 
of Empress of Austria) who is serving in the Belgian Army. He came to 
inform me that the Emperor of Austria had written to him to try & 
arrange for a separate peace with the Entente. The difficulty will be 
Italy. It is of course very secret: only M. Poincar^ and M. Ribot know. 
It would be a great thing if it could be brought about.' 

The dream of direct negotiation with Austria was not finally 
dispelled until, in December 1917, General Smuts met Count Mens- 
dorff in Geneva and was informed that the Austrian Government 
were not in the position to make a separate peace but would gladly 
lend their good offices for general peace negotiations. This statement 
was confirmed in a message conveyed a few weeks later to Lord 
Stamfordham from Slatin Pasha/ who, while asserting that he 
regarded himself both as a 'faithful subject of the Austrian Emperor' 
and c a British General and a loyal servant to King George*/ added 
that any idea that Austria was physically in the position to detach 
herself from Germany was an utter illusion. President Wilson there- 
after remained the only man who still believed in the feasibility of a 
separate peace with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

These were not the only peace proposals which, during those dark 
months, came to cause confusion or to raise fallacious hopes in the 
minds of the belligerent peoples. On two occasions the King of Den- 
mark wrote to King George suggesting that the moment had come 

1 Sir Rudolf Slatin Pasha, G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G. (1857-1932) resigned 
from the Austrian Army as a young man and took service under Gordon 
in the Sudan. He was captured by the Dervishes and kept a prisoner by 
the Khalifa for eleven years. In 1895 he escaped to Egypt and served with 
distinction in the Omdunnan campaign. From 1900 to the outbreak of 
War he was Inspector General of the Sudan. In 1907 he was made an 
honorary Major General in the British Army. He happened to be on leave 
in Austria when war broke out. Refusing to take any action whatsoever 
against his former employers, he devoted himself to Red Cross work 
and was able to be of assistance to many British prisoners of war. At 
one time he was accused of having adhered to the King's enemies; this 
accusation was later found to be unjustified; he was invited to England, 
received by the King, and his British honours were restored to him. 


1917 The Pope's Peace Note 

for neutral mediation. The King replied that he feared that 'the end 
of this appalling war seems still a long way off 9 and that Great 
Britain would not be satisfied by anything short of c an honourable 
and lasting peace 5 .* On July 19, 1917, Herr Erzberger 1 induced the 
Reichstag to pass a resolution demanding peace without annexations 
and indemnities. The German Emperor informed the Party leaders 
that within a month all British ships would be driven from the seas 
and that then c all Europe, under my leadership, will begin the real 
war against England the Second Punic War*. On August i, 1917, 
the King received from the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal 
Gasparri, a letter asking him to forward to the French Government, 
the Italian Government and the Government of the United States 
'the concrete proposals of peace 5 sponsored by the Pope 'in his 
anxiety to do all that he can do to secure an end to the conflict which 
has for more than three years devastated the civilised world'. 1 The 
King replied that he had forwarded the Pope's Note to those with 
whom the Holy See was not in diplomatic relations: 

c His Majesty the King', the reply continued, 111 e has received these 
proposals with the most sincere appreciation of the lofty and bene- 
volent intentions which animated His Holiness and His Majesty's 
Government will study them with the closest and most serious atten- 

In the end the Pope's Peace Note was, by agreement between the 
Allies, politely answered by referring His Holiness to the statement 
of peace terms sent to President Wilson in January 1917. 

More disturbing in its effect upon British public opinion was the 
letter addressed by Lord Lansdowne to the Daily Telegraph on 
November 29, 1917. The outburst of indignation occasioned by this 
letter was, as it now seems, largely artificial. Lord Lansdowne had 
done no more than suggest that the prolongation of the war would 
'spell ruin to the civilised world', and urge that there should be 
some coordination of allied war aims. Moreover, before sending the 
letter to the Daily Telegraph, he had, as Lord Burnham told the King, 
taken the precaution to consult Colonel House and Lord Hardinge, 

1 Herr Matthias Erzberger (1875-1921), leader of the Centre Party, 
was quick to sense the failure of the submarine campaign and the inevit- 
able collapse of Austria. In September 1918 he joined the coalition formed 
by Prince Max of Baden and in November accepted the invidious post of 
head of the German Armistice Commission. He was largely instrumental 
in inducing the Weimar Government to accept and sign the Treaty of 
Versailles. He was murdered on August 26, 1 92 1 . 


The strain of war *9 X 7 

who had both approved its terms. n Mr Bonar Law voiced the com- 
mon opinion when he denounced the letter as 'nothing less than a 
national misfortune 5 . It was certainly ill-timed. Since in that 
autumn of 1917 Russia was no longer a military factor, Italy was 
shattered by the disaster of Caporetto, a stalemate had been reached 
on the Western Front, the massive strength of America was still 
undeveloped, and Great Britain was as yet uncertain whether she 
had mastered the lethal menace of the submarine campaign. 1 


The King meanwhile continued as before his ceaseless round of 
visits and inspections, nor did he abate his efforts to inculcate more 
humane standards or to ease the friction between the politicians and 
the soldiers. The strain was great. Already in August 1916 the 
United States Ambassador had found him looking 'ten years older 5 / 
To Queen Alexandra, who had suggested that he was undertaking 
too many engagements he replied :* 

C I am not too tired. In these days I must go about & see as many 
people as possible & so encourage them in their work. They appreciate 
it, I believe, & I am quite ready to sacrifice myself if necessary, as long 
as we win this war. . . . 5 

He was constantly urging the Government to take more active 
steps to relieve the condition of our prisoners of war in Germany. He 
wrote to Lord Robert Cecil, drawing his attention to the plight of 
our civilian prisoners interned in Ruhleben Camp, and urging him 
to reach some arrangement with the Germans whereby civilian 
prisoners could be exchanged.* He wrote to the Prime Minister ex- 
pressing his fear that the men who had been prisoners since 1914 
. would either die in captivity or else return in an embittered and 
vindictive mood, 'full of hatred of our governing classes for having 

1 The Germans, on adopting unrestricted submarine warfare on Feb- 
ruary i, 1917, calculated 'that they would sink 600,000 tons a month and 
bring us to our knees in five months. In April 1917, their peak month, 
they did in fact sink 423,000 tons and the position appeared to be one of 
extreme and imminent danger. It was largely owing to Mr Lloyd George's 
insistence that the convoy system was adopted. The first experimental 
convoy left Gibraltar on May 10; by the end of July it was applied to all 
homecoming vessels; by August it was extended to out-going vessels also. 
All manner of anti-submarine measures were also devised and the average 
monthly losses declined immediately. By the time of the Armistice 88,000 
ships had been convoyed with the loss of only 436. By the second quarter 
of 1918 new construction exceeded sinkings. 

The Americans arrive 

left them to their fate, while the Officers have been rescued, and 
either repatriated or interned in neutral countries' : 

c The King earnestly entreats you', wrote Lord Stamfordham/ *to do 
all in your power to at least obtain the release of as many as possible 
of the 1914 prisoners, otherwise he fears that few of them will return 
at the end of the war.' 

The King remained none the less strongly opposed to any form 
of reprisals, feeling that they would be 'contrary to the British 
character 5 and that c in any case we should inevitably be beaten by 
our enemies if we attempted to play their game'. 3 When, after our 
defeats in the spring and early summer of 1918, an outcry arose 
demanding the internment of all aliens indiscriminately, the King 
treated this clamour with scorn. Mrs Asquith, who saw him during 
this period, was so entranced by his attitude that she wrote to Lord 
Stamfordham one of her most breathless letters:* 

'Dearest Lord Stamfordham, 

I can't tell you how much H. and I enjoyed our lunch with the 
King and Queen. As you know, I've loved him since he was a little 
middy & I'm alas! incapable of telling the smallest ]iesuch a draw- 
back in life! I never heard King Edward talk more sensibly & with 
greater insight and wisdom, and such "vrai dire" never as well as 
K.G. the other day. He has come on immensely aufond has always 
had goodwill, simplicity and fine courage. I had tears in my eyes and 
have still when he spoke of the vindictive and unnecessary murder 
of the poor Czar and I was moved to deepest admiration by his revolt 
against this alien stunt. "Intern me first" he said and showed fairness 
and Christianity and real moral indignation over the whole low busi- 

In June 1917 General Pershing with the advance guard of the 
United States Army arrived in London and was received with his 
staff at Buckingham Palace. The General was struck by the c charm 
and simplicity 5 of his reception, but somewhat embarrassed when 
the King, explaining that he was 'not a politician and did not see 
things from their point of view 9 , expressed the hope that as many as 
possible of the American troops would serve with the British Army. 
General Pershing replied that America was determined to create an 
army of her own. The King then addressed General Pershing's 
staff: a 

'It has always', he said, 'been my dream that the two English-speaking 
nations should some day be united in a great cause, and today my 
dream is realised. Together we are fighting for the greatest cause that 
peoples can fight. The Anglo-Saxon race must save civilisation.* 


Mr Lloyd George's plan 


Fully as he recognised and appreciated the momentum given to 
our war effort by the dynamic genius of Mr Lloyd George, the Bang 
as has been said, was often disconcerted by the flash and sparkle 
of the Prime Minister's ideas and impulses and by his impatient, 
and sometimes ruthless, intolerance of the professional mind. 

On October 18, 1917, Mr Lloyd George had a long conversation 
with the King, and divulged with his accustomed wealth of imagery, 
his own conception of the future of the war.* The Russians and the 
Italians were out of the battle; it was evident that the French did not 
intend to *do much more fighting 5 ; and we could not expect great 
assistance from the United States during the course of 1918. It was 
obvious therefore that the brunt of the fighting during the next year 
would fall upon the British. We should be expected 'to sacrifice the 
flower of our Army in a single-handed offensive 3 . What then could 
be the condition of the Allies when victory was achieved? France 
would be left with her new armies almost intact; Russia, 'possibly 
resuscitated 9 , would once more be a great military Power; and 
America would by then have landed a powerful force and would 
claim the credit for the Allied victory. Great Britain, with her ranks 
thinned through sustained fighting, would be so weak as to be 
unable to assert herself 'or to make her voice heard and her will 
prevail in the momentous decisions to be come to in the Council of 

This, the Prime Minister said, shall never be. It was his duty to 
ensure that whenever the climax is reached England is at the -zenith 
of her military strength and in a position more than to hold her own 
among the Nations of the World. 9 

He proposed therefore that we should insist on obtaining from 
our Allies a precise statement whether or no they were ready, 
during the course of 1918, to resume a serious offensive. If not, 
then we should content ourselves with'remaining on the defence in 
Flanders, curtail our subsidiary campaigns, and liberate as many 
men as possible for employment at home, especially for shipbuilding 
and agriculture. In this way we 'could hold the enemy on the West- 
ern front until such time as our Allies consented to cooperate in a 
general offensive'. It was for the politicians to lay down the general 
plan and to estimate the moment when the climax would be reached; 
the details could then be left to the professional soldiers and sailors 
to work out. 

The Mesopotamia Report 

The King, who remained obstinately convinced that high strategy 
was a matter for experts, was not encouraged by this imaginative 
forecast; its validity depended, all too obviously, upon whether the 
enemy would also, during the next twelve months, consent to remain 

Mr Lloyd George, moreover, with his quick sense of drama, had a 
tendency, when public feeling was aroused, to search for eminent 
scapegoats. The King had a warm feeling for scapegoats and disliked 
seeing public servants thrown to the wolves. A difference of opinion 
thus arose between them as a result of the report of the Mesopotamia 
Committee which was published in June 1917. The report censured 
the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, the Commander in Chief India, Sir 
Beauchamp Duff, the Commander of the Expeditionary Force in 
Mesopotamia, Sir John Nixon, and the chiefs of the Medical Services. 
Nor did it accord 'complete immunity* to Mr Austen Chamberlain, 
the Secretary of State for India. The latter, having in the House of 
Commons made a spirited defence of the Viceroy on the ground that 
he had not been directly responsible and that it 'would be an evil 
day for this House and for this country if a great public servant were 
to be hounded out of public life in response to the clamours of an 
ill-informed and passionate mob 5 .*" decided that he had no course 
but to resign: 

'When a Minister 5 , he wrote to the King, 'can no longer protect those 
who have served or are serving under him, when his own actions are 
made the subject of review by a Judicial Tribunal Mr Chamber- 
lain submits that it is not consonant with the honour of public men or of 
Your Majesty's Government that that Minister should continue in his 
employment. 9 * 

Mr Chamberlain's action was typical of his chivalrous integrity; 
but the problem of Lord Hardinge, who on his return from India 
had, with considerable public spirit accepted the onerous post of 
Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, was not so easily 
solved. On July 9 the Prime Minister asked Lord Curzon to suggest 
to Lord Hardinge that it would be fitting for him to send in his 
resignation before the Mesopotamia report came up for debate in 
the House of Commons. The King happened at the moment to be 
absent on a visit to the front, but Lord Stamfordham, knowing the 
King's attitude on the subject, went to the Prime Minister and 
informed him that His Majesty would regret it if Lord Hardinge 
were forced to resign, 'not only for personal reasons, but from a sense 
of loyalty to public servants, who should not be thrown over by the 


The King's differences with Mr Lloyd George 79/7 

Government'. Mr Lloyd George was annoyed by this intervention. 
He informed Lord Stamfordham that: 

'He would strongly deprecate any action on the part of the King 
which might be interpreted as showing partiality or favour to Lord 
Hardinge; already the public are disposed to attribute to pressure 
from "influential quarters" any hesitation to adopt prompt and 
drastic measures in dealing with inefficiency. As Prime Minister he 
would point out the unwisdom of the King's championing, as it were, 
Lord Hardinge's case.* y 

The King, on hearing of this, telegraphed to Lord Stamfordham 
saying that he considered Lord Hardinge would be well advised to 
place his resignation in the hands of the Foreign Secretary pending 
the debate in the House of Commons.* Lord Hardinge acted accord- 
ingly, but Mr Balfour refused to accept his resignation and urged 
irim to defendhimself in the House of Lords.*- 

The Mesopotamia Report was debated in the House of Commons 
on July 12 and 13. Mr Bonar Law, on behalf of the Government, 
suggested that a Judicial Court of Enquiry should be established to 
examine further into the responsibility of individuals. Mr Asquith 
protested against any such proposal, arguing that the House of 
Commons was the only tribunal that could properly judge the errors 
of statesmen. The House accepted this view and the Court of 
Enquiry was abandoned. Lord Hardinge remained at his post. 

An even more serious controversy arose over the dismissal of the 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Robertson. On 
January 22, 1918, Mr Lloyd George had a long conversation with 
Lord Stamfordham, and 'opened his heart' in regard to the conduct 
of the war. His attitude was one of profound dissatisfaction with and 
distrust of the Army 5 . He considered the present administration of 
the War Office 'rotten and extravagant in men, money and material 5 . 
He did not believe that it would ever be possible to break through on 
the Western Front. Only the day before he had seen *a very able 
officer, a colonel', who had confirmed his worst suspicions. The time 
had come for drastic change.*- 6 

"The Prime Minister 5 , writes Mr Churchill,*-* Svas moving 
cautiously but tirelessly towards the conception of a unified com- 
mand.* To achieve this objective Mr Lloyd George resorted to a 
series of 'extremely laborious and mystifying manoeuvres'. Already 
on September 25, 1917, he had given the French Minister of War a 
private assurance that he would assist in securing that all the armies 
on the Western Front should be placed under a French Commander 

Sir William Robertson 

in Chief.*-* At the Rapallo Conference, held in November 1917, 
after the disaster of Caporetto, he advanced a stage further. He pro- 
posed the creation of a Supreme War Council c to watch over the 
general conduct of the war on the Western Front'. This Council was 
established at Versailles under the chairmanship of General Foch. 
Sir Henry Wilson was appointed to it as permanent British military 

'It was his undoubted intention', writes Mr Churchill*** 'to arm the 
Cabinet with an alternative set of military advisers, whose opinions 
should be used to curb and correct the "Robertson-Haig" point of 

On February 2, 1918, at a meeting of the Supreme War Council, 
Mr Lloyd George obtained a decision to create a General Reserve of 
thirty divisions and to entrust this force to an 'Executive Committee' 
composed of the military representatives on the Versailles Council 
under the chairmanship of General Foch. It was this new Committee 
that would instruct the Commanders in Chief as to when, where and 
how the General Reserve could be used. Sir William Robertson, as 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff, objected strongly to this dual 
control. He was supported, although not with unwavering con- 
sistency, by Lord Derby, the Secretary of State for War. Mr Lloyd 
George endeavoured to solve the difficulty by suggesting that Sir 
William Robertson should himself go as British military representa- 
tive to Versailles and should be succeeded as C.LG.S. by Sir Henry 
Wilson. The powers exercised by the C.LG.S. under the Kitchener- 
Robertson agreement were at the same time to be curtailed. Sir 
William Robertson refused to assent to this arrangement and 
tendered his resignation. Lord Derby then invoked the assistance of 
Lord Stamfordham, asking him to persuade Sir William Robertson 
to remain on as C J.G.S. and to try to work the dual arrangement. 
Sir William Robertson replied that 'even for the King 5 he must 
refuse to assist in carrying out what he regarded as a wholly unwork- 
able duplication of responsibility. 

Lord Stamfordham then had an interview with the Prime 
Minister, and represented to him that the King 'strongly deprecated 
the idea of Robertson being removed from the office of C.I.G.S.'. 
Mr Lloyd George replied that Tie did not share His Majesty's 
extremely favourable opinion of Sir William Robertson' and added 
that if the King insisted on retaining the services of the latter 'the 
Government could not carry on and His Majesty must find other 
Ministers 5 . He added that 'the Government must govern, and this 
L 321 

The Ludendorff offensive 1918 

was practically military dictation 9 . Lord Stamfordham replied that 
the King 'had no idea of making any such insistence'.*-' 

Sir William Robertson therefore resigned his position as C.I.G.S. 
and was appointed to the Eastern Command. 1 Sir Henry Wilson 
became CJ.G.S. in his place and was succeeded on the Versailles 
Council by Sir Henry Rawlinson. 


At 4.30 a.m. on March 21, 1918, General LudendorfF began his 
fearful final offensive; it continued for four months and took the 
form of five successive waves. The first wave struck the British Vth 
Army under Sir Hubert Gough. By the night of March 22 General 
Gough was obliged to order a general retirement to the line of the 
Somme. 8 It seemed that the enemy might at last succeed in separat- 
ing the French and British and driving the latter back upon the 
Channel ports. 'We are', wrote Sir Henry Wilson on March 24, 
c very near a crash'.*-* General Pdtain, fearing for the safety of Paris, 
hesitated to come to our assistance. It was at this moment of dire 
peril, and largely at the instigation of Sir Douglas Haig himself, that, 
at Doullens on March 26, the principle of unity of command was at 
last adopted. Henceforward the responsibility for meeting the Ger- 
man onslaught was concentrated in the hands of General Foch. 8 

On March 28 the King crossed to France, since it was felt that 

1 In May 1918 Sir William Robertson was made Commander in Chief 
of the Home Forces upon Lord French's acceptance of the post of Lord 
Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1920 he received his baton. 'By command of the 
King,' Lord Stamfordham wrote to him on March 30, 1920, *I write to 
tell you with what great pleasure His Majesty has this morning signed a 
submission from the Secretary of State promoting you to the rank of 
Field Marshal' (R.A. F.I403, 6) . 

2 This first stage of General LudendorfPs offensive, known as the 
'Battle of St Quentin', lasted from March 21 till April 4. The Germans 
penetrated our positions on a base of 74 miles to a depth of no less than 38 
miles. They captured 90,000 prisoners, 1,200 guns and immense quan- 
tities of stores. As a result of this defeat General Gough was deprived of his 
command. 'I trust 3 , he wrote to Colonel Wigram (R.A. Q.I377) c that the 
King realises how stoutly, calmly and well my Army fought through that 
ordeal. 9 It has often been stated that General Gough was treated as a 
scapegoat for this tremendous reverse. 'No episode' writes Mr Churchill 
(World Crisis > IV, page 426) *in his career was more honourable than the 
disaster which entailed his fall.' 

8 General Foch was not made a Marshal of France until August 7, 
1918. In November 1918 he was appointed a British Field Marshal also. 

The Maurice debate 

his presence with the troops would assist in restoring confidence. He 
visited as many units as possible, motoring 315 miles in three days. 
He returned to England in a mood of sombre anxiety. 

On April 9 came the second German attack. General Plumer was 
driven from Messines and the Germans advanced to within striking 
distance of the junction of Hazebrouck. On April 12 Sir Douglas 
Haig issued his Order of the Day: 'With our backs to the wall, and 
believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the 
end. 5 

The anxiety aroused in England by these two reverses found 
expression in the complaint that Mr Lloyd George had refused to 
grant Sir Douglas Haig the reinforcements he had asked for and had 
insisted upon his extending an already weakened front. The Prime 
Minister replied by asserting that our armies in France were stronger 
on January i, 1918, than they had been on January i of the previous 
year. This statement was contradicted in a letter written to The 
Times on May 7 by General Sir Frederick Maurice, until quite 
recently Director of Military Operations. In a debate in the House 
of Commons on May 9 Mr Asquith pressed to a division a motion 
that these discrepancies should be investigated by a Select Com- 
mittee. Mr Lloyd George insisted on treating the motion as a vote of 
censure and succeeded, after much discomfiture, in weathering the 
storm. 1 

OnJMay 27 General Ludendorff delivered a surprise attack upon 
the French in the sector of the Chemin des Dames and penetrated 
their lines to a depth of thirteen miles. There is a possibility 3 , wrote 
Sir Henry' Wilson on June i, 'perhaps a probability, of the French 
Army being beaten.* ** 

*Yes/ the King wrote to Queen Alexandra on June 2, *I am grateful 
for your prayers; they are a comfort to me & will help me to get 
through all these anxious days & I fear more lie ahead of us. But we 
must be courageous & go on to the end, however long it may take, as 
I shall never submit to those brutal Germans & I am sure the British 
Nation is of the same opinion/ 

During those four months of repeated anxiety the King's resolu- 
tion was fortified by the indomitable confidence of his Prime 

1 In this debate 106 members of the Liberal Party voted with Mr 
Asquith against Mr Lloyd George. Their names were noted and, when it 
came to the 'Coupon Election 9 of 1918, they were punished accordingly. 
The 'Maurice Debate* is important in political history as marking the 
first stage in the disintegration of the Liberal Party. 


The battle of August 8 1918 

Minister. Only those who served with or under Mr Lloyd George 
throughout that dire ordeal can rightly appreciate and remember 
how much the State then owed to his vitality, resource and unflinch- 
ing moral courage. Others flagged or wavered: Mr Lloyd George, at 
the very moment of defeat, remained exuberantly sure. 

On June 9 came the fourth German lunge at Compi&gne; it was 
checked by General Mangin. On July 15 began the ultimate offen- 
sive in Champagne, the Kaiserschlackt, attended by the German 
Emperor in person. From the summit of a specially constructed 
gazebo he watched the distant drifting smoke of battle, waiting hour 
after hour in the warm summer rain for the news of final victory. It 
never came. On July 18 General Foch struck suddenly upon the 
Marne salient. Tlie Battle of Champagne was broken off. The 
Emperor climbed down from his gazebo and returned to the Im- 
perial train; through the night it rumbled towards Spa and exile. 
While in the presence of his staff the Emperor still maintained his 
pose of triumphant hilarity; but an observer noticed that, when he 
returned to his own coach, he walked dejectedly; pausing in the thin 
corridor to gaze intently at the photographs upon the wall: photo- 
graphs taken in the old days at Ischl or Konopischt, at Bjorko or 
Corfu; photographs of stags spread upon the gravel at Balmoral or of 
tea under the tent at Osborne House.*-* 

It was not realised at the time that General Foch's counter- 
stroke of July 18 marked the beginning of the end. On August 7, 1918 
the King paid his fifth and final visit to the Front. It was an auspici- 
ous date. 1 At dawn on August 8 the British Fourth Army, led by 450 
tanks, broke through the German lines and advanced nine miles. 
It was on that day that General Ludendorff realised that the spirit 
of his men, after all those years of superb endurance, had at last been 
broken. 2 Marshal Foch at once decided to deliver a series of hammer 
blows, so rapidly successive as to prevent the German High Com- 

1 c Your Majesty's visits to the Army in France* wrote Sir Douglas 
Haig on August 15 (RA. 0*832, 140) 'have always been most heartily 
appreciated, but I venture to think that during the last two visits it has 
been demonstrated more than on any other occasion during this war, how 
heart and soul the Army is behind you, Sir. In March things looked 
black indeed; and on the last occasion our anxiety was beginning to pass 
away. Your Majesty's presence and kindly words brought home to one 
and all how very much our King is Head of the Army. ' 

2 'Der 8 August*, he wrote in his Memoirs, *ist der schwarze Tag des 
deutschen Heeres in der Geschichte dieses Krieges. 9 (Errinerungen, 
page 547. See also Hindenburg's AusMeinemLeben, pp. 358 ff.) 


jgi8 The Armistice 

mand from switching its reserves. On August 10 the French Third 
Army went into the attack; on August 17 the French Tenth Army 
followed further to the south; on August 21 the British Third Army 
launched a local offensive, to be followed by the British First Army 
on August 26. By the beginning of September the Germans found 
themselves back in the Siegfried line. On September 12 the American 
Army under General Pershing heavily defeated the enemy at St 
MihieL On September 29 Sir Douglas Haig began his assault upon 
the Siegfried line and on the same day came the news that Bulgaria 
had surrendered. Something like panic seized German Head- 
quarters. On October 3 a new German Government under Prince 
Max of Baden addressed to President Wilson an appeal for an 
immediate armistice. On October 5 the British crashed through the 
Siegfried line and out into the open country beyond. By then 
Generals Ludendorff and Hindenburg had recovered from their 
sudden panic of September 29 and were determined to resist the 
great pincer movement which Marshal Foch was known to have 
planned. It was then too late. The wind of defeat had already spread 
through the armies and reached the home front behind. On October 
30 Turkey capitulated and on November 4 Austria signed an 
armistice which placed all Austrian communications in Allied hands. 
On November 9 Prince Max of Baden handed over the Government 
to the Socialist leader, Herr Friedrich Ebert; the abdication of the 
Emperor and the establishment of the German Republic were pro- 
claimed from the steps of the Reichstag. On November 10 the Em- 
peror crossed the Belgian frontier into Holland. At dawn on Monday, 
November n, the armistice was signed in Marshal Foch's train in 
the Forest of Compi&gne. At 1 1 .o a.m. that morning the First World 
War came to an end. 




Armistice celebrations The King's address to Parliament He visits the 
battlefields President Wilson in London Mr Lloyd George asks 
for a dissolution The King agrees with reluctance The 'coupon 
election' The King asks Mr Lloyd George to take Mr Asquith to 
the Peace Conference The Unionist majority The King and the 
Peace Conference Austria Rumania The signature of the Treaty 
of Versailles The German Princes petition the King against the 
trial of the German ex-Emperor The King resumes his old routine 
Demobilisation Industrial unrest The end of the post-war boom 
The Goal Strike The Railwaymen and Transport Workers The 
King's concern for the unemployed His desire to promote concord 
His disapproval of controversial war memoirs The Two Minutes 
Silence The burial of the unknown warrior. 


INSTANTLY the sober spaces of the streets of London were striped 
with people running differently: within fifteen minutes the roads and 
squares were blocked by shouts and colour and gesticulation. Men 
and women rushed out from shops and offices, clambering upon the 
stranded omnibuses and lorries, or surging together in a boisterous 
tide towards the Palace. The royal pages draped the centre balcony 
with its valance of red and gold. The King and Queen appeared. 

Far into the night the crowds stood massed around the Victoria 
Memorial or clustered upon the captured German cannon that lined 
the Mall. The King tried to speak to them, but his voice was drowned 
in one continuous roar of ecstasy, relief and triumph. He looked down 
upon a myriad upturned faces, uniform as the stones upon a shingle 
beach, upon ten thousand staring eyes, upon mouths opened in a 
universal paean. He looked beyond them to the summit of the Nelson 
column, flickering curiously in the light of unseen bonfires; or to 
where in the darker distance Big Ben hung suspended as a silent 
moon. The agony was over: Britain had conquered; she was safe. 

During that jubilant week the King became for his people the 
hierophant of victory. On five successive days, accompanied by the 
Queen, he drove in an open carriage through the poorer quarters of 

The King in Paris 

c Nine miles', he wrote in his diary, 'through waves of cheering crowds. 
The demonstrations of the people are indeed touching.' 

In St Paul's Cathedral was held a service of thanksgiving. In 
the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster the King received an 
address of congratulation from the assembled Lords and Commons 
in the presence of the representatives of the Dominions and India. 
In reply he spoke to them of the achievements of the fighting ser- 
vices, of the patience of the civilian population and the self-sacrifice 
of the workers, of the courage of the Mercantile Marine and fishing 
fleets, of the help rendered by the Commonwealth and Empire, of 
the endurance of our Allies: 

c May good-will and concord at home 9 , he concluded, 'strengthen our 
influence for concord abroad. May the morning star of peace, which is 
now rising over a war-worn world, be here and everywhere the herald 
of a better day, in which the storms of strife shall have died down and 
the rays of an enduring peace be shed upon all nations.' 

That night he left for Edinburgh to review the Fleet assembled 
on the very eve of the surrender of the German navy in the Firth 
of Forth. On his return to London he inspected disabled soldiers and 
sailors in Hyde Park: 

"There were between 30,000 and 35,000 present: they were most 
enthusiastic & in riding down the lines they broke through & came 
round me to shake hands. I was nearly pulled off my horse.' 

On November 27 he crossed to France, As he drove with M. 
Poincar6 from the Bois de Boulogne station in Paris he was greeted 
with fervour by the crowds that packed the Champs Elys&s. He 
described his reception as *a great demonstration of gratitude to 
England for what she has done for France 9 . Thereafter he visited the 
battlefields, the war cemeteries and the devastated areas: Arras and 
St. Quentin, Le Gateau and Mons, Ypres and Passchendaele, 
Cambrai and Zeebrugge: 

* At each place I got out & walked through the troops who cheered me. 
It was not stiff, the men often following me through the town. A fine 
drizzle which was pretty wetting and plenty of mud. 9 

On December n he returned to England to prepare for the 
reception of the President of the United States. Mr and Mrs Wood- 
row Wilson reached London from France on the afternoon of 
Boxing Day. Through decorated streets the King, with the President 
beside him, drove from the station to Buckingham Palace: the Qjieen 
and Mrs Wilson] followed in the second carriage. The men and 


President Wilson's visit 1918 

women who thronged the pavements and the windows welcomed 
the President with awe and hope: to them he seemed a theocratic 
figure, the prophet of a finer revelation. Mr Wilson responded to their 
respectful plaudits by raising his top hat and smiling a wide but arid 
smile. There was no presage, on that December afternoon, of the 
tragedy to come. 

There followed a state banquet at Buckingham Palace and a 
luncheon at the Guildhall. After a short visit to Manchester the 
President returned to France, confirmed in his sad fallacy that, 
however much the politicians in his own and other countries might 
threaten or manoeuvre, he alone understood and could enforce the 
wishes of the common man. The King, during their short converse, 
derived no impression of the shadows of vanity and suspicion that 
marred the splendour of Woodrow Wilson's mind and heart. 'He is 
quite easy to get on with/ the King commented in his diary, 'He 
made a nice speech. 5 

On December 31, after bidding farewell to the President at 
Victoria Station, the King and Qpeen left for Norfolk. It was not a 
happy homecoming; Their youngest son, Prince John, who had for 
long been an invalid, died on January 18: he was buried at Sand- 


Mr Lloyd George, from the moment that victory seemed assured, 
had turned his mind to the need of holding an immediate General 
Election. On November 2, 1918, he had discussed the matter with 
Mr Bonar Law and on November 5 he asked the King to grant him 
an early dissolution. The King endeavoured to persuade the Prime 
Minister to abandon, or at least to postpone, this project. The argu- 
ments on both sides are well recorded by Lord Stamfordham in a 
memorandum dated November 5, 1918: 

e The King saw the Prime Minister this evening, who asked His 
Majesty to grant a dissolution of Parliament, although he was aware 
from previous conversations with the King that he did not favourably 
view such a step. 

His Majesty began by giving the Prime Minister his reasons for 
deprecating a General Election at the present time, pointing out that 
the Government had already the support of the House of Commons 
for the continuance of the War and settlement of Peace, and Mr 
Asquith, as Leader of the Opposition, had recently stated that his 
Party would continue their support. 

There was considerable risk from the unknown factors of the sol- 

The King opposes a dissolution 

diers' and women's votes, and the King understood that a large per- 
centage of the soldiers would be practically disenfranchised through 
lack of time in circulating their voting papers, which would be un- 
popular in the Army. 

He reminded the Prime Minister of the precedent of the Khaki 
Election in 1900, which brought back the Unionists with a large 
majority and kept them in power on what was really a fictitious vote, 
and ended in ruining them and keeping them out of Office ever since. 

Having the election in the winter, at a time of shortage of coal and 
food, would not be conducive to a contented frame of mind on the 
part of the electors with the Government. 

The Prime Minister admitted the force of His Majesty's objections, 
but urged that they were more than outbalanced by the arguments 
which, after three months of careful consideration, appealed to his 

He seemed inclined to discount the danger of disenfranchising the 
the soldiers, and thought the women were more likely to vote "sanely" 
now, than later on when there might be discontent. 

The suggested General Election would not be at all on all fours 
with the Khaki Election of 1900, for in the latter case Parliament had 
only been in session for five years out of eight years existence, whereas 
the present Parliament not only has no further years to run, but has 
already exceeded its statutory term of life by a considerable period. 

For every reason it seems to be the unique moment to appeal to 
the electorate, now that a great load is, as it were, removed from the 
mind of the people by the early prospect of a termination of the War; 
and it is important that the Election should take place now, rather 
than at a later period when demobilization may be in progress and 
thousands of both the military and civil population thrown out of 
employment, thereby causing considerable unrest in the country. 

The present House of Commons is dead and does not represent 
the voice of the people, and it is impossible for any Ministry to carry on 
the Government of the country during what must be a most difficult 
period namely that of reconstruction unless it has behind it a 
Parliament genuinely representative of the electorate. 

By this arrangement the election could be over before any unrest is 
likely to occur. The Government watchword to the country would be 
"Unity". This can only be secured by a Coalition Government, and an 
appeal to that end will be made to the electors by the leaders of the 
three Parties Mr Lloyd George, Mr Bonar Law and Mr Barnes. 

After hearing the Prime Minister's views, the King granted his 
permission for the dissolution of Parliament at an early date.' 

It has since been suggested that the King ought to have main- 
tained his initial objections to this dissolution, on the ground that the 
electorate were in too excited a mood to express a balanced judge- 
ment; and that in any case he should not have permitted Mr Lloyd 
George to c cash in 5 on victory. Such criticisms are based upon a 

L2 329 

The Coupon Election 1918 

faulty interpretation of the functions of Constitutional Monarchy. 
The King did in fact exercise his right to 'warn' Mr Lloyd George 
against the course he proposed to adopt; yet once the Prime Minister 
rejected that warning, the only alternatives open to the King were 
either to accept Mr Lloyd George's resignation, which was politically 
impossible, or to follow his advice. Mr Lloyd George can scarcely 
be blamed for insisting upon a dissolution in that winter of 1918; 
it is not the election itself that is open to criticism but the methods 
by which, and the manner in which, it was conducted. c The will of 
the people', comments Mr Berriedale Keith, 6 c is not necessarily wise, 
but the duty of the King is, not to override its will, but to assume 
that it shall be duly ascertained and then fairly acted upon.' It was 
in no sense the fault of the King if thereafter the will of the people 
was unduly ascertained or acted upon in a manner that some sub- 
sequent historians have condemned as inequitable. 

The moment the dissolution was announced the Labour Party 
decided to resume their independence and not to 'stand at the 
election as supporters of the existing Government. Mr Lloyd George 
ignoring the appeal of the Manchester Liberals that he should 
make his peace with Mr Asquith and thus recreate a united Liberal 
Party entered into a compact with Mr Bonar Law. Under this 
arrangement all candidates who were classed as loyal to the Coali- 
tion were to receive a badge or certificate in the form of a letter of 
recommendation jointly signed by Mr Lloyd George and Mr Bonar 
Law. It was this certificate that was denounced by Mr Asquith as a 
'coupon* and thereby gave to the General Election of December 1918 
the damaging title of "the coupon election'. Sir George Younger, the 
chairman of the Unionist party organisation, was quick to seize the 
occasion and to earmark for the candidates of his own party a large 
proportion of the prospective seats. 1 Mr Lloyd George busied himself 
with dividing the Liberal candidates into sheep and goats; the sheep 
were those who had supported him at the time of the Maurice debate; 
the 1 06 Liberals who had voted against him on that occasion were 
labelled goats and denounced as 'conspirators who had plotted 
against their country at a moment of grave danger'. Nor can it be 

1 Sir George Younger (1851-1929) had been Unionist member for 
Ayr Burghs since 1906. Since the age of seventeen he had been chairman 
of the family brewery, a post that he retained until his death. He became 
head of the Unionist party organization in 1917 and at the Carlton Club 
meeting of October 19, 1922, was largely instrumental in persuading his 
party to abandon Mr Lloyd George. In February 1923 he was raised to the 
peerage as Viscount Younger of Leckie. 


The King and Mr Asquith 

said that the tone of the electoral speeches was either elevated or 
prudent. Although two days after the Armistice Mr Lloyd George 
had urged his followers to c put away all base 3 sordid, squalid ideas of 
vengeance or avarice', he had within the three ensuing weeks pledged 
himself to prosecute the Kaiser, to punish the German generals and 
officers, to expel and exclude all Germans from Great Britain, and 
'to exact the last penny we can get out of Germany up to the limit 
of her capacity*. The pledges given and the speeches made by other 
Coalition candidates were even more immoderate. 

Polling took place on December 14, but owing to the time 
required to collect the ballot papers of those serving abroad, the 
results were not announced until December 28. 1 The Coalition, 
although they had polled no more than 52% of the total votes, 
acquired as many as 526 seats in the new Parliament. Labour 
increased its representation to 63. The Independent Liberals were 
reduced to 33. Mr Asquith himself was defeated in East Fife, a seat 
that he had held for thirty-two years. 

The King had always retained for his first Prime Minister feel- 
ings of affectionate esteem. One of his first acts, on hearing of the 
Armistice, had been to send to Mr Asquith a personal message of 
congratulation. 'I look back with gratitude 9 , he had telegraphed on 
that morning of November u, *to your wise counsel and firm 
resolve in the days when great issues had to be decided, resulting 
in our entry into the War.' On November 19 he wrote to Mr Lloyd 
George urging him to Consider the advisability* of including Mr 
Asquith among the United Kingdom delegates to the impending 
Peace Conference: 

'You served', the King wrote, 'for many years in Mr Asquith's Govern- 
ment and know his worth as a lawyer, a statesman, and a man of clear 
dispassionate judgement. The fact of his having been Prime Minister 
at the outbreak of War invests him with a special authority valuable to 
you in Council. I fed that your selection of him as a member of the 
Conference would be applauded both at home, in the Dominions and 
abroad.' * 

Mr Lloyd George returned no reply to this letter. When he saw' 
the King on November 25 he merely stated that nothing could be 

1 It will be recalled that the Representation of the People Act 1918 
had more than doubled the number of the Electorate. It gave the vote to 
women over thirty years of age, abolished the property qualification for 
men and extended the franchise to naval and military voters. (See Anson, 
Lazv and Custom of the Constitution^ Vol. I, fifth edition, pp. 121 ff.) 

S3 1 

The Coupon Parliament 1918 

decided until after the Election, adding that the situation would be 
eased if Mr Asquith would consent to enter the Government.* 
When, a few days later, Mr Asquith himself told the Prime Minister 
that, although unwilling to accept a post in the Government, he 
would be glad to serve as a member of the Peace Delegation, Mr 
Lloyd George mumbled something about 'considering the proposal*, 
glanced at his watch and stooped down to pick up some books that 
had fallen to the floor/ 

It was thus with special distress that the King heard that Mr. 
Asquith had been defeated in East Fife. He at once addressed to 
him a warm letter of sympathy and comfort. *I regret very much', 
he wrote to Prince Albert on December 31, 'that Mr Asquith has 
been defeated. It is very ungrateful, after all he has done for his 
country. 3 'One always took it for granted/ commented Lord 
Stamfordham/ 'that no Peace Conference would be possible 
without Asquith and Grey. But such ideas seem now to be quite out 
of date. 51 

The coupon election certainly accorded Mr Lloyd George and 
his Government an overwhelming mandate to direct with full 
authority their policy of peace and reconstruction. But at the Peace 
Conference that followed, Mr Lloyd George found himself hampered, 
both by the electoral pledges he had rashly indulged in, and by the 
low intellectual level of the House of Commons which he and Mr 
Bonar Law had jointly secured. On entering Parliament a few 
months later, Mr J. C. Davidson 2 communicated to Lord Stamford- 
ham some trenchant observations on the quality of his Unionist 

1 There exists in the Royal Archives a significant minute addressed by 
Lord Stamfordham to Sir Clive Wigram on March 1 1, 1929: "The King's 
memory is really wonderful. When on Saturday I told H.M. that LL.G. 
was now saying he wanted Asquith to go to the Peace Conference & that I 
remembered how H.M. had urged LL.G. to take Asquith, the King said, 
"Oh, but surely there was a letter?" 

Here it is and you will see that LL . G. never returned to the subject after 
the Coupon Election. 9 

2 Mr J. C. Davidson had been Private Secretary to Mr Bonar Law 
from 1915-1920. He entered the House of Commons in 1920 as Unionist 
Member for Hemel Hempstead, and immediately became Mr Bonar 
Law's Parliamentary Private Secretary. In 1923 he was made Chancellor 
of the Duchy of Lancaster and served as Chairman of the Unionist Party 
from 1927-1930. Thereafter he again became Chancellor of the Duchy 
until raised to the peerage in 1937 as Viscount Davidson of Little Gaddes- 


i gig The Pans Peace Conference 

'Now a word about individual members. The first thing that struck 
me on entering the House of Commons was the high percentage of 
hard-headed men, mostly on the make, who fill up the ranks of the 
Unionist Party. The old fashioned country-gentleman, and even the 
higher ranks of the learned professions, are scarcely represented at all. 
I cannot bring myself to believe that this is a good thing and I cannot 
help hoping that the next Parliament will be less full of the modern, 
and to my mind unscrupulous, characters which are to be found in the 
present House. . . .' 

His Majesty minuted this letter with the words 'A great pity. 


With the proceedings of the Peace Conference the King was not 
directly concerned. He would receive the regular minutes of the 
Conference and its Committees, as well as those of the discussions 
that took place within the British Empire Delegation. From time to 
time the Prime Minister would furnish him with a personal report on 
some aspect of special interest or significance; and on his occasional 
visits to London Mr Lloyd George would verbally expound to the 
King the problems that had arisen, the nature of his relations with 
President Wilson, M. Glemenceau or Signor Orlando, and what 
prospects there existed of securing an early and enduring peace. 

Typical of such, communications was a letter addressed to the 
King by the Prime Minister and dated from the Villa Majestic, Rue 
La P&ouse, Paris, on February 5, 1919. It concerned the delicate 
and indeed provocative question of British Empire representation:* 

'The greatest difficulty', wrote Mr Lloyd George, 'during the week 
arose over the question of representation. The Dominions claimed 
representation at the Peace Conference commensurate with their 
great sacrifices for the common cause. They claimed with great justice 
that they should all be treated on exactly the same basis as the lesser 
Allies such as Belgium and Serbia. The other Great Power's, however, 
who met them in the most friendly and generous spirit pointed out 
that if the full <J*T of the Dominions was conceded the British 
Empire would have so great a delegation at the Peace Conference as 
inevitably to arouse criticism and resentment among other nations, 
none of whom would have more than five delegates. They further 
pointed out that the Dominions were in a different position from 
Belgium and Serbia inasmuch as their interests were supported not 
merely by their <ywn delegates but by the five members of the British 
Empire delegation who would be present at all discussions and would 
sit in the innermost councils of the Allies. After a very amicable dis- 
cussion it was finally decided that Canada, Australia, South Africa and 


The future of Austria 1919 

India should have two representatives apiece and New Zealand one 
representative. This decision was regarded by the Dominions with 
great satisfaction though the representatives of New Zealand, which 
had only one representative, and Newfoundland which was excluded 
from direct representation altogether, felt a little disappointed. It was 
found possible, however, to mitigate this feeling by including one and 
sometimes two Dominion representatives in the British Empire dele- 
gation on formal occasions. The spectacle of the representatives of the 
British Empire occupying no less than 14 seats in the most prominent 
position at the Conference table was an eloquent testimony to the 
sacrifices which the British Empire had made in the war and to its 
commanding influence in the world today. . . .' 

As the Peace Conference waxed in fury, these personal reports 
from Mr Lloyd George became less frequent and voluminous. 

Only rarely, in so far as Foreign Affairs were concerned, did the 
King consider it incumbent upon him to furnish warnings or to 
tender advice. As early as November 1918 he had drawn the Foreign 
Secretary's attention to the danger of a union between Germany and 
Austria, He suggested that it might be well to retain for Austria some 
port upon the Adriatic, in order to prevent her becoming entirely 
dependent for her export trade on German transport and outlets.* 
Mr Balfour's reply, although sagacious, displayed an optimistic dis- 
regard of the passions which tte very idea of an Anschluss between 
Germany and Austria would be bound to arouse:' 

Foreign Office, November 1 1 1918. 
My dear Stamfordham, 

The problem raised by the King is by no means new, and I have 
given it considerable thought. 

I do not see that we can really oppose the union of the Germans oT 
Austria with the rest of the Germanic peoples provided it is clearly 
desired by the inhabitants themselves. To do so would violate one of 
the cardinal principles forwhich the Allies have been fighting the right 
of self-determination. Nor am I clear that such a union would be 
politically disadvantageous. It would greatly increase the strength of 
South Germany as opposed to the North and the leadership might 
pass from the hands of Prussia. I know that many people in France do 
not share this view, but it seems to me to have much force. The 
Austro-Hungarian Empire as it existed before, a great reservoir of 
non-German man-power yet completely subservient to Germany, 
was I think much more dangerous to the peace of the world than would 
be a Germany enlarged by the addition of the German Austrian 

Things are however at present in such chaos that it is really im- 
possible to predict the fixture of those parts of Europe. 


1 919 The Queen of Rumania 

I have always had in view the necessity of securing some economic 
outlet for Austria on the Adriatic. This should not be difficult to 
arrange at the Peace Conference. 

Yours ever, Arthur James Balfour. 

(p.s. If Germany got the German Austrian Provinces and lost what she 
ought to lose to the Poles, the French, and the Danes, her net gain 
would (I believe) be insignificant.)' 

The withdrawal of the enemy forces of occupation from Rumania 
enabled the King again to resume correspondence \vith his cousin, 
Queen Marie, who throughout the period of defeat and humiliation 
had done so much by her example to maintain and fortify the spirit 
of her subjects. The first letter that he received from her after the 
liberation of Rumania is illustrative of her buoyant grandeur:* 

Jassy i2/25thNov. 1918. 
My dear George, 

You will never know what it meant for us the first communication 
with you all again. We were like buried alive, smothered, cut off from 
the living and suddenly light broke in upon us with such a rush that 
we were nearly blinded. 

Your dear letter was brought to me by Lieut. Griffith Evans, who 
has such a big soul in such a frail body, and you cannot imagine the 
pleasure it gave me. I never doubted but that you would be a faithful 
friend and uphold our country and its interests, but to hear it again 
from you yourself after the awful silence that had fallen upon. us for 
about 9 monthsjvvas a wonderful moment of happiness. 

I can only tell you dear George that I held firm as only a born 
Englishwoman can. Nothing shook me, neither threats, nor misery, nor 
humiliation nor isolation. At the darkest hours when no news reached 
us I clung firmly to my belief in your strength and fidelity. I knew you 
would win and I kept my people from giving way even at a moment 
when many had become doubters, luck having been from the begin- 
ning so dead set against us. And even if you had not been victorious, 
I would have stuck to you, for me there are no two forms of fidelity. 
Forgive me for talking so much of myself, but I have been so insulted 
and flouted since we were given over into the enemy's hands that really 
it is my hour now! . . .* 

Slowly the Peace Conference drew to its exhausted end. There 
came the March crisis and the May crisis and then the final signature 
of peace in the Gal&ie des Glaces of the Palace of Versailles: 

'Buckingham Palace. June 28 (1919). We got the news about 4.30 
that peace had been signed at Versailles at 4.0 o'clock. A large number 
of people collected in front of the Palace & at 6.0 a salute was fired of 
101 guns. May & I & the children went out on the centre balcony & 
there was a great demonstration of loyalty. One of the Guards bands 



played in the forecourt. We stopped on the balcony for 40 minutes. 
After dinner I received a letter from the Prime Minister telling me 
peace was signed, brought by Mr Davidson in an aeroplane. At 9.15 
we again went on the balcony, a larger crowd than ever, probably 
100,000. David & I each made a short speech. At n.o they turned 
searchlights on and we again went out. Today is a great one in history. 
Please God the dear old Country will now settle down & work in 

The letter which Mr Davidson brought by air from Paris that 
evening ran as follows: 

Gal&ie des Glaces du Chateau de 


*Mr Lloyd George with his humble duty to Your Majesty has the 
honour to announce that the long & terrible war in which the British 
Empire has been engaged with the German Empire for more than four 
years & which has caused such suffering to mankind has been brought 
to an end this afternoon by the Treaty of Peace just signed in this hall. 

He desires on behalf of all the Plenipotentiaries of Your Majesty's 
Empire to tender their heartfelt congratulations to Your Majesty on 
the signature of a Treaty which marks the victorious end of the terrible 
struggle which has lasted so long & in which Your Majesty's subjects 
from all parts of the Empire have played so glorious a part. 

D. Lloyd George, June 28, 1919. 4.0 p.m. 

The King did not in fact regard the Treaty of Versailles and its 
attendant instruments with any marked confidence or satisfaction. 
We find him writing to the Foreign Office in November 1919, draw- 
ing their attention to the misery still imposed upon the Austrian 

'The King is shocked at the condition of things in Vienna as 
described in Lindley's despatch of Nov. 4. His Majesty asks whether 
Lord Curzon 1 could not communicate its contents to the Conference 
in Paris with a view to the prompt adoption of some measures for the 
provision of those necessaries of life which, owing to the conditions of 
the Peace Treaty, seem to be withheld from the people, especially at a 
time when the rigours of an early winter have to be faced.' 

An embarrassing situation was created by Article 27 of the 
Treaty of Versailles, under which the German Emperor was 
arraigned Tor a supreme offence against international morality and 
the sanctity of treaties*. On June 4, 1919, the Supreme Council of the 
Conference had agreed that the ex-Emperor should be brought to 
trial. The King regarded this indictment as ill-judged. Even before 

1 Lord Curzon succeeded Mr Balfour as Foreign Secretary on October 
24, 1919. 




yt* ,m, 


'-, ; 



,.,<, <'<,' 

<~ e/ * 


The German Emperor 

the coupon election took place he had agreed with Lord Stamford- 
ham's commentary on the issue: n 

'The majority of people*, the latter had written to him on Decem- 
ber 5, 1918, 'appear to have lost their balance about the Kaiser. But 
there are some thoughtful minds who think we shall land ourselves in 
hopeless difficulties if a so-called International Tribunal is embarked 
on. It certainly will not be "international" if only the allied countries 
find the Judges who will themselves be the accusers. . . . The cooler 
heads advocate the Falkland Islands and no trial. But sending Na- 
poleon to St Helena did not prevent his nephew becoming Emperor 
and the Kaiser's sons cannot all be hanged!' 

After the Supreme Council had invited the Netherlands Govern- 
ment to extradite the ex-Emperor, the King received a petition 
signed by the King of Saxony, the Duke of Wiirtemberg and the 
Grand-Duke of Baden. It was not in every respect a tactful docu- 
ment; but it was one to which a convincing or logical reply could 
not, with great facility, be framed: 

'At this late hour' it ran, 'the German Princes turn to Your Majesty 
with an earnest and urgent appeal. If the monstrous suggestion is 
carried out demanding that His Majesty, the German Emperor, should 
be delivered up by Neutral Countries in order to vindicate his conduct, 
then the world will witness the spectacle of an independent Monarch, 
overcome in honourable warfare by his enemies' superiority, being 
brought, contrary to the laws of warfare and of nations and to the 
traditions of Christian lands, before a Court of Justice composed of his 
enemies who are in every way incompetent to judge him. In the name, 
and on behalf of, all unanimously thinking German Princes, we 
approach Your Majesty, whose family originated among us, and beg 
you to listen to our warning. We know that our Emperor acted to the 
best of his knowledge and with the highest intentions, in full con- 
sciousness of his kingly responsibility. 

If Your Majesty, by tolerating his trial, lays hands on the Royal 
Dignity of a great and at one time friendly and related Ruler, then 
every official authority, every throne (including the English throne) 
will be threatened. We trust to the wisdom of Your Majesty to prevent 
a crime, the responsibility for which would weigh heavily on Your 
Majesty's shoulders.' 

The King referred this letter to the Foreign Secretary and the 
Prime Minister. Lord Curzon considered that the letter was 'im- 
pertinent* in tone and substance and that no reply should be re- 
turned. The King felt however that it would be a mistake to leave 
such an appeal unanswered and in the end a reply was drafted by 
the Foreign Office pointing out that the indictment of the ex- 


Victory Parade 

Emperor figured in the text of the Treaty and as such became the 
joint responsibility of all the Signatory Powers. 

An analogous difficulty occurred some months later when the 
Allies insisted upon the delivery to them of a number of German 
generals and officers who had been catalogued as c war criminals'. 
On February 9, 1920, the German Grown Prince wrote to the King 
offering his own person as a scapegoat for his compatriots. 'IT, he 
wrote, the Allied and Associated Governments require a sacrifice 
let them take me instead of the nine hundred Germans, whose only 
fault was that they served their Fatherland in War.' No reply, it 
seems, was returned to this foolish, but not ignoble, gesture. In the 
end, the Netherlands Government stoutly and most conveniently 
refused to deliver up the ex-Emperor; he was permitted to remain in 
Holland until his death. 


On June 29, 1919, the King went in person to welcome Mr Lloyd 
George on his triumphal return from the Peace Conference: 

*He drove with me to Buckingham Palace & got a splendid reception 
from large crowds.' 

On July 19 the Victory Parade was held in London. The King 
took the salute from a pavilion erected at the base of the Victoria 
Memorial. Foch and Pershing, Beatty and Haig passed before him 
at the head of their detachments. c The most impressive sight', he 
wrote, *I ever saw.' 

Slowly the old peace-time routine was re-established. In August 
1919 the King and Queen returned to Balmoral: 'delighted to be 
in this dear place again after six years & to see all our nice people 
again'. On February 10, 1920, he opened Parliament in full state, 
wearing his crown. On March 22 was held the first leve since the 
war: e lt was refreshing to see the old fulldress uniform again.' On 
June 10 took place the first Court for six years. On July 10 lie was 
again at Portsmouth in the Victoria and Albert which he had not seen 
since the dramatic Spithead review of July 1914. On February 15, 
1921, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, the Guards ap- 
peared again in their scarlet tunics and bearskins. This surface re- 
sumption of pre-war pageantry and customs did not conceal the fact 
that fundamentally the structure and spirit of society had changed. 

In the early weeks of 1919 the public were startled from com- 
placency by the disorders that attended the demobilisation of the 

Industrial unrest 

armies. The Cabinet had adopted an imprudent scheme of demobil- 
isation, under which the first men to be released were the 6 key men, 
required for industry, who were in fact the very men who had been 
the last to be called up. Riots occurred in Glasgow and Belfast and 
at Luton the town hall was burnt down by an angry mob. At Calais 
a serious military mutiny occurred. Mr Churchill was hurriedly 
transferred to the War Office and succeeded within a few weeks in 
restoring order by scrapping the original scheme and introducing a 
fairer method under which priority of release was based on length 
of service and number of wounds. When once the Churchill plan had 
been established men were demobilised at the rate of 50,000 a day 
and discontent subsided. 

It had been expected that the period of reconstruction would be 
marked by heavy unemployment. The unemployment insurance 
scheme attached to the 1911 Health Act applied only to a limited 
number of trades and provided relief at the rate of only 7/~ a week. 
The Government now promised a system of complete contributory 
assurance and in the meantime they agreed to provide ex-soldiers 
and ex-munition workers unable to find employment with a non- 
contributory dole of 25/- a week. Owing, however, to the post-war 
boom, which lasted until the end of 1920, industry was able to 
absorb all the labour available. Although some four million men 
were rapidly demobilised, the number of unemployed for November 
1919 was no more than 300,000. 

In spite of the ease with which industry absorbed this sudden 
flood of released labour, the workers themselves were restless and 
suspicious. The strikes that were declared during the course of 1919 
surpassed all previous records and during the year thirty million 
working days were lost. The ferment of unrest which, during the 
early period of reconstruction, infected the proletariat can be 
ascribed to various causes. Apart from the psychological dislocation 
caused by the war there was a feeling that if the Government could 
spend seven millions a day in destroying their enemies they could 
well afford to redeem their promise to render Britain a land fit for 
heroes to live in. With the rise in the cost of living the workers were 
at a loss to tell what their wages really represented nor could either 
they or their employers accurately assess, in terms of current supply 
and demand, the strength of their respective forces. Moreover, 
during the war the Trades Unions had accepted an industrial truce 
and the Shop Stewards, who until then had been little more than 
local officials appointed by their district committees, had begun to 


End of the post-war boom 1920-1921 

assume functions of leadership in the several factories. These 
stewards, many of them affected by the example of the Russian 
Soviets, began to regard themselves as no longer subordinate to the 
Trades Unions but as directly elected by, and representative of, the 
workers themselves. They lent themselves readily to syndicalist 
theories and to conceptions of direct action. Today we can appreci- 
ate that all this restlessness was an inevitable result of dislocation and 
in some ways a valuable process of re-growth: at the time, it appeared 
to the authorities as a presage of turmoil. 

The King, although deeply distressed by the prevailing discord, 
did not exaggerate the menace either of the Council of Action or of 
the Triple Alliance between the railwaymen, the transport workers 
and the miners. On February 9, 1919, he had had a conversation 
with Mr J. H. Thomas, leader of the N.U.R. c He is', he wrote in his 
diary, c a good and loyal man': 

c Last year', he wrote to Lord Stamfordham on January 3, 1920,* 
'has been a difficult one for us all, but I think we can congratulate 
ourselves that we have come through it better than any other country 
& please God 1920 will see things settle down & that the present 
unrest will gradually decrease as trade improves & unemployment 
becomes less. Labour is certainly gaining strength politically & will do 
so more in the future, but surely as their power increases so will their 
responsibility, therefore they will be less inclined to listen to the 
extremists. I feel that each year my responsibilities increase. I shall 
ever do my best to meet them & I know that so long as I can count on 
your kind help & advice they will be lightened.' 

Trade did not improve and the post-war boom that lasted until 
December 1920 began rapidly to decline. In that month the un- 
employment figures rose to 700,000; by March 1921 they were over 
1,300,000; by June they had passed the two million mark. The 
export price of coal fell in the early months of 1 92 1 from 55/- to 24/-. 
The Government announced that on March 31 they intended to 
decontrol the mines and to suspend the subsidy of five million 
pounds a month that had sufficed hitherto to stabilise prices and 
wages* During the war, moreover, the Government had negotiated 
national agreements with the Miners Federation. The miners desired 
this system to continue since it enabled the more prosperous mines 
to create a pool for the support of those that were working at a loss. 
The owners, however, insisted upon a return to the area system. On 
April i the miners declared a strike. On April 8 the railwaymen and 
transport workers announced that, unless the miners and owners 

The King and unemployment 

came to an agreement, 'the full strike power of the Triple Alliance' 
would be brought to bear by midnight on April 12. 

The King, who was at Windsor, returned hurriedly to London. 
The apprehension caused by this threat of a triple strike is well re- 
flected in the weekly letters that he addressed to Queen Alexandra: 

'On Friday', he wrote on April 10, 'the Railway men & Transport 
workers informed us that they also were going to strike on Tuesday 
next, so I at once decided to return to London. There is no doubt that 
we are passing through as grave a crisis as this country has ever had. 
All the troops have been called out; Kensington Gardens is full of 
them. The public are entirely on the side of the Government/ 

'As you can imagine,' he wrote on April 17, 'we have been through 
a very serious week. Up to 3.0 o'clock on Friday afternoon it looked as 
if the Railwaymen and Transport Workers would strike for a certainty 
at i o.o o'clock at night. The leaders of the two unions suddenly settled 
that they would not strike; whether they found out that their people 
were very half-hearted about it (which was true) or whether they 
thought the miners' case not good enough to support, I do not know. 
It was indeed a great relief to us all that we were spared the chaos and 
misery which would have been caused by the dislocation of the life of 
the people. The Government had made the most elaborate prepara- 
tions for feeding the people of London and all over the country, and 
this might also have deterred them from striking at the eleventh hour 
Alas! The miners 9 strike continues.* 

'I went to a football match', he wrote on April 24, c at which there 
were 73,000 people; at the end they sang the National Anthem and 
cheered tremendously. There were no bolsheviks there! At least I 
never saw any. The country is all right: just a few extremists are doing 
all the harm.' 

When the unemployment figures increased during the autumn of 
1921 the King repeatedly conveyed to the Prime Minister his grow- 
ing concern: 

'The King 9 , Lord Stamfordham wrote to Mr Lloyd George on Sep- 
tember i, 'is daily growing more anxious about the question of 
unemployment during the coming winter. . . . The people grow dis- 
contented and agitators seize their opportunities; marches are organ- 
ised; the police interfere; resistance ensues; troops are called out and 
riot begets riot and possibly revolution. His Majesty knows that this 
matter is engaging the serious attention of his Government and feels 
sure that, even among the many absorbing questions which confront 
you, you are not losing sight of what seems to be not only a serious 
but almost insoluble problem/ 

Three weeks later the King instructed Lord Stamfordham to 
write an even more trenchant letter to Sir Maurice Hankey, the 
Secretary of the Cabinet:' 


The King discourages recrimination 

'I do not know whether you have returned from leave, but I am 
writing to you because the King does not want to bother the Prime 
Minister with any letters which are not absolutely necessary for him 
to receive. At the same time His Majesty is very much troubled about 

the unemployment question As the King hopes that the question 

will come before the Cabinet at an early date, he would ask you to lay 
before them, either this letter, or its general contents. 

His Majesty does not know what the Cabinet Unemployment 
Committee are likely to recommend; but he does most earnestly trust 
that the Government will agree to some scheme by which work, and 
not doles, will be supplied to the unemployed, the great majority of 
whom, IDs Majesty understands, honestly want to work. Emergency 
works, such as road-making, land reclamation, light railways, foresta- 
tion although unremunerative, will nevertheless be doing some good 
and meet the claim of those who demand work and not charity, 

It is impossible to expect people to subsist upon the unemployment 
benefit of I5/- for men and 1 2/- for women. 

The King appeals to the Government to meet this grave, but he 
believes temporary, difficulty, with the same liberality as they dis- 
played in dealing with the enormous daily cost of the war.' 


The King's unceasing endeavours to promote concord and to 
allay dissension were not confined to the areas of politics and 
industry. He strongly disapproved of the publication of contempor- 
ary memoirs calculated to perpetuate personal bitterness or to revive 
forgotten controversies. When he read in a Sunday newspaper that 
Mrs Asquith was about to serialise her autobiography and to include 
therein important letters from Lord Stamfordham, he wrote to the 
latter in some perturbation:* 

'What on earth does this mean? People who write books ought to be 
shut up. Can you find out what this refers to?' 

More serious was the distress occasioned to him by the publica- 
tion of Lord French's book entitled '1914*. He instructed Lord 
Stamfordham to address to the Field Marshal a letter of grave 

Windsor Castle, May 8 1919. 
c My dear French, 

The King desires me to say how much concerned he is by the 
publication of your book upon the War, which inevitably will give rise 
to controversy and personal recriminations among officers in our own 
and the French Army now living and the representatives of those who 
are dead. Your high rank in the Army and your position as His 
Majesty's representative in Ireland invest your utterances with special 

I9 20 The Unknown Warrior 

importance, and for this reason the King regards as very serious the 
fact of your having "entered the lists" and given to the world, when the 
War is theoretically not ended, your account of that part of its history 
during which the British forces were under your Command. 

You know how difficult it is to write history, even when events are 
fresh in men's minds, and the King would deprecate it if, in the hoped- 
for days of rejoicing and happiness, a discordant note were sounded 
by angry disputes and personal wrangling with regard to either the 
conduct of operations or the leadership of troops, crucial features and 
important turning-points as they were in the history of the campaign.' 

There is no record in the Royal Archives of what reply Lord 
French returned to this reprimand. 

In October 1919 Lord Milner wrote to Lord Stamfordham sug- 
gesting that the first anniversary of Armistice day might be marked 
by a solemn moment of national silence. The proposal originated 
from a South African, Sir Percy Fitzgerald, who had been impressed 
by the effect of the c two minutes pause' which during the war had 
been observed daily in Cape Town as a 'salute to the dead 5 . The 
King was in favour of the proposal but felt that it was a matter for 
the Cabinet to decide. The Cabinet, in spite of Lord Curzon's ob- 
jections, agreed that at the stroke of n.o on November n a two 
minutes silence should be observed. 

When the second anniversary of the Armistice was approaching, 
the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev. Herbert Ryle, suggested that 
when the permanent cenotaph was unveiled on November 1 1, 1920, 
the body of an unknown warrior should be buried in Westminster 
Abbey in the presence of the King and the heads of the fighting ser- 

'His Majesty* Lord Stamfordham replied on October 7, 1920,** 'is 
inclined to think that nearly two years after the last shot fired on the 
battlefields of France and Flanders is so long ago that a funeral now 
might be regarded as belated, and almost, as it w<ere, reopen the war 
wound which time is gradually healing.' 

The suggestion, which had in fact been first made by the Rev. 
David Railton, at one time Chaplain at the Front and subsequently 
Vicar of Margate, was warmly sponsored by Mr Lloyd George and 
Sir Henry Wilson. The King withdrew his original objections and, 
after unveiling the Cenotaph on November n, walked behind the 
gun carriage bearing the coffin of the unknown warrior to its place 
in the Abbey. He was relieved to admit that his original apprehen- 
sions were unjustified: he found the ceremony appropriate and im- 


The King discourages recrimination 

*I do not know whether you have returned from leave, but I am 
writing to you because the King does not want to bother the Prime 
Minister with any letters which are not absolutely necessary for him 
to receive. At the same time His Majesty is very much troubled about 
the unemployment question, ... As the King hopes that the question 
will come before the Cabinet at an early date, he would ask you to lay 
before them, either this letter, or its general contents. 

His Majesty does not know what the Cabinet Unemployment 
Committee are likely to recommend; but he does most earnestly trust 
that the Government will agree to some scheme by which work, and 
not doles, will be supplied to the unemployed, the great majority of 
whom, His Majesty understands, honestly want to work. Emergency 
works, such as road-making, land reclamation, light railways, foresta- 
tion although unremunerative, will nevertheless be doing some good 
and meet the claim of those who demand work and not charity. 

It is impossible to expect people to subsist upon the unemployment 
benefit of i s/- for men and i2/- for women. 

The King appeals to the Government to meet this grave, but he 
believes temporary, difficulty, with the same liberality as they dis- 
played in dealing with the enormous daily cost of the war.' 


The King's unceasing endeavours to promote concord and to 
allay dissension were not confined to the areas of politics and 
industry. He strongly disapproved of the publication of contempor- 
ary memoirs calculated to perpetuate personal bitterness or to revive 
forgotten controversies. When he read in a Sunday newspaper that 
Mrs Asquith was about to serialise her autobiography and to include 
therein important letters from Lord Stamfordham, he wrote to the 
latter in some perturbation:* 

'What on earth does this mean? People who write books ought to be 
shut up. Can you find out what this refers to?' 

More serious was the distress occasioned to him by the publica- 
tion of Lord French's book entitled '1914'. He instructed Lord 
Stamfordham to address to the Field Marshal a letter of grave 

Windsor Castle, May 81919. 
'My dear French, 

The King desires me to say how much concerned he is by the 
publication of your book upon the War, which inevitably will give rise 
to controversy and personal recriminations among officers in our own 
and the French Army now living and the representatives of those who 
are dead. Your high rank in the Army and your position as His 
Majesty's representative in Ireland invest your utterances with special 


The Unknown Warrior 

importance, and for this reason the King regards as very serious the 
fact of your having "entered the lists" and given to the world^when the 
War is theoretically not ended, your account of that part of its history 
during which the British forces were under your Command. 

You know how difficult it is to write history, even when events are 
fresh in men's minds, and the King would deprecate it if, in the hoped- 
for days of rejoicing and happiness, a discordant note were Bounded 
by angry disputes and personal wrangling with regard to either the 
conduct of operations or the leadership of troops, crucial features and 
important turning-points as they were in the history of the campaign/ 

There is no record in the Royal Archives of what reply Lord 
French returned to this reprimand. 

In October 1919 Lord Milner wrote to Lord Stamfordham sug- 
gesting that the first anniversary of Armistice day might be marked 
by a solemn moment of national silence. The proposal originated 
from a South African, Sir Percy Fitzgerald, who had been impressed 
by the effect of the 'two minutes pause* which during the war had 
been observed daily in Cape Town as a c salute to the dead'. The 
King was in favour of the proposal but felt that it was a matter for 
the Cabinet to decide. The Cabinet, in spite of Lord Curzon's ob- 
jections, agreed that at the stroke of ii.o on November 11 a two 
minutes silence should be observed. 

When the second anniversary of the Armistice was approaching, 
the Deaa of Westminster, the Very Rev. Herbert Ryle, suggested that 
when the permanent cenotaph was unveiled on November 1 i, 1920, 
the body of an unknown warrior should be buried in Westminster 
Abbey in the presence of the King and the heads of the fighting ser- 


'His Majesty 5 Lord Stamfordham replied on October 7, 1920," 'is 
inclined to think that nearly two years after the last shot fired on the 
battlefields of France and Flanders is so long ago that a funeral now 
might be regarded as belated, and almost, as it were, reopen the war 
wound which time is gradually healing.' 

The suggestion, which had in fact been first made by the Rev. 
David Railton, at one time Chaplain at the Front and subsequently 
Vicar of Margate, was warmly sponsored by Mr Lloyd George and 
Sir Henry Wilson. The King withdrew his original objections and, 
after unveiling the Cenotaph on November 11, walked behind the 
gun carriage bearing the coffin of the unknown warrior to its place 
in the Abbey. He was relieved to admit that his original apprehen- 
sions were unjustified: he found the ceremony appropriate and im- 




The advance of Sinn Fein Conscription extended to Ireland Measures 
of repression Sinn Fein win the General Election and proclaim an 
Irish Republic The Black and Tans The King protests against 
reprisals The Northcliffe interview The Home Rule Act of 
December 1920 The King opens the Parliament of Northern Ire- 
land Effect of the King's speech The King urges the Prime 
Minister to enter into immediate negotiations Mr Lloyd George's 
first approach to Mr De Valera General Smuts' visit to Dublin 
Mr De Valera comes to London The Government offer Ireland 
Dominion Status The offer rejected The King persuades the 
Prime Minister to send a conciliatory reply The invitation of 
September 7 Mr. De Valera accepts the invitation The London 
Conference Heads of Agreement signed on December 6, 1921 
The Irish Treaty ratified The King's satisfaction at this result. 

THE Convention of 1917 had been summoned in the expectation that 
a reunion of notable Irishmen would succeed in framing a system of 
Home Rule acceptable to the country as a whole. It was not at the 
time realised that the decision of Sinn Fein to boycott the Conven- 
tion would rob it of effective reality. The English, with their tendency 
to approach Irish problems in a mood of complacency, failed until it 
was too late to recognise that Sinn Fein, under the guidance of 
Eamon De Valera, 1 was becoming the determinant force in Irish 

1 Eamon De Valera was born in New York on October 14, 1882, the 
son of a Spanish father and an Irish mother. His father died when he was 
two years of age and he was thereafter entrusted to the care of his grand- 
mother in Co. Limerick and bred and educated in Ireland. In 1913 he 
became a member of the Irish Volunteers, was captured at the time of the 
Easter rebellion in 1916, and was condemned to life imprisonment at 
Dartmoor. Released under the general amnesty of June 1917, he was in 
January 1918 chosen as "President of the Irish Republic*. Arrested again 
in May 1918, he escaped from Lincoln jail in February 1919. On the 
establishment of the Free State in December 1 92 1 he headed the republican 
rebellion and was imprisoned by the Free State Government in August 
1923, being released in the following July. As leader of the Fianna Fail 
party he entered the Dail in 1927 and after the election of 1932 became 
President of the Irish executive council. His subsequent career is outside 
the scope of this biography. 


iQi8i()2o Sinn Fein 

politics: a force combining the mysticism of ancient yearnings with a 
practical efficiency that was new and fierce. 

Mr John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party 
in the House of Commons, died on March 8, 1918. He was succeeded 
by Mr John Dillon. On April 9, under the impact of the German 
offensive, Mr Lloyd George rushed through Parliament a Man- 
power Bill extending conscription to Ireland. Mr Dillon and his 
followers immediately withdrew from Westminster and joined with 
Sinn Fein in issuing a manifesto denying the right of the Imperial 
Parliament to impose compulsory military service on the Irish 
people. The Irish bishops, who had hitherto remained ostensibly 
neutral, denounced the Act as 'an oppressive and inhuman law, 
which the Irish have the right to resist by all means consonant with 
the laws of God'. 

The British Government felt that so overt a defiance of Parlia- 
ment could not be submissively ignored. Although, as the German 
menace waned, they did not in practice enforce conscription upon 
Ireland, they decided to reassert what, with some euphemism, were 
called 'the principles of orderly government'. 

On May 6 Field Marshal Lord French was appointed to succeed 
Lord Wimborne as Lord Lieutenant. On May 17 Mr De Valera was 
arrested and transported to Lincoln Jail. On May 20 Mr Arthur 
Griffith and other Sinn Fein leaders were deported to England; on 
July 3 Sinn Fein and its affiliated bodies were declared 'dangerou? 
associations'; and on the same date the whole western seaboard oi 
Ireland was pronounced a military area. Mr Dillon, who by then had 
returned to the House of Commons, denounced these measures as 
placing Ireland 'under the unfettered tyranny of military govern- 

At the General Election of December 1918 Sinn Fein captured as 
many as 73 of the 105 Irish seats. The old Irish Parliamentary Party 
was reduced to six members; Mr Dillon himself was defeated. Sinn 
Fein celebrated this victory by assuming the title of the 'Irish 
Republican Party 9 . On January 21, 1919, those of them who were 
not under arrest in England met as the Dail Eireann in the Mansion 
House at Dublin, signed a Declaration of Independence, and elected 
Mr De Valera as 'President of the Irish Republic'. The British 
Ministers and public did not, at the time, attach sufficient import- 
ance to these events. The Dail also chose Count Plunkett and Mr 
Arthur Griffith as the delegates of the Republic accredited to the 
Peace Conference in Paris. Mr Lloyd George succeeded in persuad- 


1 he 8lack and '1 ans 1920 

ing President Wilson that the Irish problem was a purely domestic 
issue and that the self-styled representatives of the Irish Republic 
had no right to be heard. 

Having been denied the opportunity to plead their claim to self- 
determination before an international tribunal, the Irish leaders 
decided to resort to direct action. Already a social and economic 
boycott had been proclaimed against the Irish Constabulary. In the 
autumn of 1919 the policy of assassination was applied; throughout 
1920 it continued with increasing ferocity. No juries could be found 
to convict the assailants; the British forces of 60,000 regulars and 
15,000 armed police proved unable to cope with the 3,000 Irish 
guerillas; anarchy, accompanied on each side by many atrocities, 
spread throughout the land. 

On April 4, 1920, Sir Hamar Greenwood 1 was appointed Chief 
Secretary for Ireland. On July 10 it was announced that the by then 
depleted ranks of the Irish Constabulary were to be reinforced by 
specially recruited ex-service men. These new recruits were dressed 
in khaki uniforms with black hats and armlets. They became known 
as the 'Black and Tans'. 


As early as September 1919 the King had expressed to the 
Government his anxiety lest, without any clear conception of policy, 
they might be drifting into an impossible position: 

*His Majesty asks', wrote Lord Stamfordham to Mr Bonar Law on 
September 1 1, 1919, 'what does his Government intend to do towards 
further protecting the lives of unoffending people in Ireland and in 
order to introduce into Parliament measures for the Government of 
the country?' a 

Tor the present', Mr Bonar Law replied, 'the policy of His 
Majesty's Government must be what it has been throughout of 
supporting the Irish Government in taking whatever measures they 
think necessary to secure orderly Government in Ireland.' * 

Throughout the course of 1920 and the early months of 1921 the 
reports that the King received from his ministerial and other ad- 

1 Sir Hamar Greenwood was born at Whitby, Ontario, in 1870 and 
had served for eight years in the Canadian militia. He entered the British 
House of Commons in 1906 and became Under Secretary at the Home 
Office in 1919. He was raised to the peerage in 1929 as Baron Greenwood 


The King protests against reprisals 

visers were contradictory but disquieting. Lord French, on his 
occasional visits to London, would confess that the whole situation 
was 'shocking and lamentable 5 . Sir Hamar Greenwood, after his 
appointment as Chief Secretary, adopted a more optimistic tone. In 
November 1920 he was assuring Lord Stamfordham that 'every- 
where the move is upward towards improvement 5 . 6 In the following 
April he expressed the view that 'now that the Republican movement 
is crumbling, owing to the gallant police and military, the Republic 
exists no longer.' d 

Sir Nevil Macready, commanding the British military forces in 
Ireland, was less satisfied. He deprecated the expression 'murder 
gang 9 so readily applied by English politicians to the Sinn Fein 
leaders; the term 'fanatical patriots 5 would, he suggested, be more 
appropriate. He realised that the discipline and morale of his troops 
were being exposed to a strain that was almost intolerable. Al- 
though it was evident that the Sinn Fein movement could, if desired, 
be suppressed by force, he intimated that this would entail an 
operation of war more extensive and bitter than would be acceptable 
to the judgement or conscience of the British people. His implication 
that conciliation was preferable to violence was in accordance with 
the King's own natural tendencies.* 

His Majesty regarded himself and it was an honourable 
illusion as the protector of his Irish, as well as of his British, sub- 
jects. He complained repeatedly of the scant courtesy shown by 
British officers to perfectly harmless individuals, such as Mrs Annan 
Bryce, who were detained or examined on suspicion/ He was out- 
raged by the reprisals carried out by men wearing the British uni- 

"The King', Lord Stamfordham wrote to Sir Hamar Greenwood in 
May 1921, 'does ask himself, and he asks you, if this policy of reprisals 
is to be continued and, if so, to where will it lead Ireland and us all? 
It seems to His Majesty that in punishing the guilty we are inflicting 
punishment no less severe upon the innocent.'* 

In July 1921 a newspaper in the United States published what 
purported to be an interview with Lord Northcliffe, in which the 
latter had stated that the King was opposed to the Irish policy of the 
Government and had protested to them against the activities of the 
Black and Tans. 'I cannot 5 , the King was represented as saying, 
'have my people killed in this manner.' The interview was repudiated 
by Lord Northclifle and described by Mr Lloyd George in the House 
of Commons as c a complete fabrication 5 . Yet, however unauthorised, 


Attempts at compromise 1921 

it was not in fact a fanciful presentation of the King's feelings at the 
time. He certainly expressed the view that the Black and Tans 
should be disbanded and that the constabulary should be subjected 
to military discipline under the command of Sir Nevil Macready.* 

The British Cabinet meanwhile had not failed to mitigate the 
exercise offeree by movements of conciliation. A new Government of 
Ireland Bill was passed under which two Irish Parliaments were to be 
established, the one in Dublin and the other in Belfast. The principle 
of unify was to be maintained by the creation of a 'Council of Ire- 
land' composed of members of each of the two legislatures Svith a 
view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of 
Ireland 9 . Questions of Foreign Policy and Defence were to be 
reserved for the Imperial Parliament in London. Once the two Irish 
legislatures had merged into a single Irish Parliament, questions of 
finance and excise were to be settled by direct negotiation with the 
British Government. This Bill received the Royal Assent on Decem- 
ber 23, 1920. At the same time Lord Edmund Talbot, a leading 
English Catholic, was appointed Lord Lieutenant in the place of 
Lord French. He assumed the title of Lord Fitzalan. 

Attempts were at the same time made to enter into surreptitious 
contact with the leaders of the Sinn Fein movement. In April 1921 
Lord Derby, disguised in coloured glasses and under the name of 
c Mr Edwards 5 , crossed to Dublin and had an interview with Mr De 
Valera. In May, Sir James Craig, Prime Minister of Northern Ire- 
land, agreed, with commendable courage, to place his head within 
the lion's mouth: he drove by devious ways to the place where Mr 
De Valera was concealed and spent nearly two hours in conversation 
with his formidable antagonist. Throughout the period confidential 
exchanges took place between the British Government and the Sinn 
Fein leaders through the agency of Mr Alfred Cope, Assistant Under 
Secretary at Dublin Castle. None of these interviews or communica- 
tions availed to bring agreement nearer or to abate the reign of 
terror that was distracting the land and filling the minds and hearts 
of British citizens with the mixed anguish of perplexity, resentment 
and shame. 


It had been decided that on June 22, 1921, the King should cross 
to Belfast and open in person the first session of the new Ulster 
Parliament established under the Government of Ireland Act of 
1920. The speech that he made on that occasion exercised so strong 

The Belfast visit 

an influence upon the future course of Anglo-Irish relations that the 
circumstances in which it was composed must be examined in some 

The story that the King rejected the first draft prepared by the 
Irish Office on the ground that it was lacking in 'effective humanity', 
and that thereafter he substituted for it a speech written by himself 
with the assistance of General Smuts, is not exact in every particular 
and incidentally implies a departure from established constitutional 
procedure.* Neither the King nor General Smuts ever saw the 
original draft and had thus no means of knowing whether it was or 
not a 'blood-thirsty document*. The origins of the Belfast speech, 
although unusual, were not quite so abnormal as the legend avers. 

On June 13, 1921, General Smuts, who had arrived in England 
for the Imperial Conference, was invited to luncheon at Windsor. 
He found tie King 'anxiously preoccupied' by his forthcoming visit 
to Belfast. The King feared that the advice given him by his Ministers 
that he should in person open the new Ulster Parliament might be 
regarded by the Southern Irish as a deliberate affront. Lord Stam- 
fordham and other members of the Royal household expressed the 
indignant opinion that it was inconsiderate of Sir James Craig and 
the British Cabinet thus to expose the King to grave personal danger. 
General Smuts held the view that His Majesty could not but follow 
the advice tendered to him by his Ministers; but he suggested that 
this 'small dangerous affair 3 might be turned into something great 
and beneficent. Why should not the King seize the opportunity to 
address a message of peace to the whole of Ireland? The King was 
impressed by this suggestion. He asked General Smuts, with Lord 
Stamfordham^s assistance, to put his ideas into writing. Thus en- 
couraged, General Smuts withdrew and returned later with what 
was the first draft of the Belfast speech.' 

Lord Stamfbrdham, with his ever-cautious regard for correct 
constitutional procedure, did not consider it fitting for the King 
himself to put before the Cabinet the draft of so important and 
unusual a pronouncement. He therefore asked General Smuts to 
convey the draft to the Prime Minister in the form of a personal 
suggestion. On his return to London, therefore, General Smuts 
addressed to Mr Lloyd George a long private letter enclosing, merely 
as an illustration, a sketch of the sort of speech that in his opinion the 
King ought to deliver. His letter is dated June 14, 1921, and is of con- 
siderable interest:* 


General Smuts 9 proposal 1921 

c My dear Prime Minister. 

I am very sorry to hear that indisposition is keeping you away 
from London at this moment. The great urgency and importance of 
the following matter must be my excuse for writing you this note. 

I need not enlarge to you on the importance of the Irish question 
for the Empire as a whole. The present situation is an unmeasured 
calamity; it is a negation of all the principles of government which we 
have professed as the basis of Empire, and it must more and more tend 
to poison both our Empire relations and our foreign relations. Besides, 
the present methods are frightfully expensive in a financial no less than 
a moral sense; and what is worse they have failed. What is to be the 
next move, for the present situation may not last? I believe there are 
certain hopeful elements in the present position, of which full use 
should immediately be made with perhaps far-reaching results. In 
the first place the establishment of the Ulster Parliament definitely 
eliminates the coercion of Ulster, and the road is clear now to deal on 
the most statesmanlike lines with the rest of Ireland. 

In the second place, the King (as he tells me) is going to Belfast 
next week to open the Ulster Parliament. Now it is questionable 
whether the King should go at all. But his going would be fully justified 
if the occasion were made use of by him to make a really important 
declaration on the whole question. I believe that in the present uni- 
versal mistrust and estrangement the King could be made use of to 
give a most important lead, which would help you out of a situation 
that is well-nigh desperate. The Irish might accept it as coming from 
the King, and in that way the opening might be given you for a final 
settlement. I would suggest that in his speech to the Ulster Parliament 
the King should foreshadow the grant of Dominion status to Ireland, 
and point out that the removal of all possibility of coercing Ulster now 
renders such a solution possible. The promise of Dominion status by 
the King would create a new and definite situation which would 
crystallise opinion favourably both in Ireland and elsewhere. Informal 
negotiations could then be set going with responsible Irish leaders and 
the details financial and strategic might be discussed with the 
Dominion Prime Ministers, if you like to do so. 

I enclose a suggested declaration to be inserted in the King's 
speech. Such a declaration would not be a mere kite, but would have 
to be adopted by you as your policy, and the King could of course only 
make it on your advice. I am not acquainted with the details of the 
Irish situation, but I should consider the attempt well worth the mak- 
ing and think you would in doing so be supported by all the Dominion 
Prime Ministers. 9 

The 'Declaration* enclosed in General Smuts' letter to Mr 
Lloyd George was much shorter than the speech as eventually 
delivered. It began by affirming the King's love and sympathy' with 
Ireland as a whole. It went on to say that the opening of the Belfast 
Parliament, implying as it did the impossibility of any coercion of 

1921 The King lands at Belfast 

Ulster, would remove what had been an insurmountable obstacle to 
agreement. And it intimated that this agreement might be based 
upon the grant to Ireland of Dominion status and of those 'principles 
and ideals of freedom and cooperation' which would lead Ireland 
c out of the miseries of the present to the happiness and contentment 
which characterises all my other self-governing Dominions 5 , 

On the morning of June 17 Lord Stamfordham called at Down- 
ing Street and pointed out that the King had 'been kept in the dark' 
with regard to the speech that he was to make at the opening session 
of the Belfast Parliament. The King, Lord Stamfordham added 
'especially after his recent conversation with General Smuts' felt 
that c he should be made acquainted with the views of the Cabinet' 
in view of 'the critical condition of affairs in Ireland and the intense 
anxiety throughout the whole of the Dominions for some solution 
other than that of the Government's present policy regarding Ire- 
land'. 1 

The Prime Minister at once agreed that the drafts which had 
been prepared by the Irish Office were 'inappropriate' and that a 
completely new speech should be composed, wider in scope and 
more personal in tone. The writing of this revised version was en- 
trusted to Sir Edward Grigg, 1 at the time one of Mr Lloyd George's 
secretaries. On June 18 the Prime Minister took this draft to Wind- 
sor and submitted it to the King, who expressed his warm approval. 

On June 21 the King, with a magnificent naval escort, crossed in 
his yacht from Holyhead to Belfast. On the morning of Wednesday, 
June 22, he landed at Donegal quay and drove in an open carriage 
to the new Parliament: 

C I think', he wrote in his diary, c my speech was appreciated. In it I 

made an appeal to the whole of Ireland for peace Our visit has 

been a great success & everything has gone off beautifully. We really 
got a wonderful welcome & I never heard anything like the cheer- 
ing ' 

1 Sir Edward Grigg (b. 1879) after leaving Winchester and New Col- 
lege joined the editorial staff of The Times and became Assistant Editor of 
the Outlook. He served in the Grenadier Guards during the war, becoming 
G.S.O.I. and a lieutenant colonel. He accompanied the Prince of Wales to 
Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 1919 and became Private 
Secretary to Mr Lloyd George in 1921. In 1922 he entered the House of 
Commons as Liberal National member for Oldham. In 1925 he became 
Governor of Kenya Colony and in 1933 he again entered Parliament as 
M.P. for Altrincham. In 1945 he was raised to the peerage as Baron 
Altrincham. He is the author of many important books on Imperial and 
political questions. 

The Belfast speech 1921 

On June 23 the King returned to London and was welcomed at 
the station by the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet. The 
citizens of London, as he drove to Buckingham Palace accorded him 
a triumphant greeting. His visit had in truth been auspicious: 

'Certainly 9 , wrote Mr Churchill, 'every loyal subject must feel a special 
debt of gratitude to Your Majesty for the unswerving sense of public 
devotion which led to the undertaking of so momentous a journey.* 

The Prime Minister was overjoyed: 

'I am confident', he wrote, 'that I can speak not only for the Govern- 
ment of the United Kingdom but for the whole Empire in offering to 
Your Majesty and the Queen the hearty congratulations of all Your 
loyal subjects on the success of Your visit to Belfast. We have been 
deeply moved by the devotion and enthusiasm with which You were 
greeted and our faith in the future is strengthened by the reception 
given to Your Majesty's words in inaugurating the Parliament of 
Northern Ireland. 

None but the King could have made that personal appeal; none 
but the King could have evoked so instantaneous a response. No effort 
shall be lacking on the part of Your Ministers to bring Northern and 
Southern Ireland together in recognition of common Irish respon- 
sibility, and I trust that from now onwards a new spirit of forbearance 
and accommodation may breathe upon the troubled waters of the 
Irish question. 

Your Majesty may rest assured of the deep gratitude of Your 
peoples for this new act of royal service to their ideals and interests. 9 n 

The speech as finally delivered may have borne but little rela- 
tion to General Smuts 5 original 'declaration 9 ; but its inception was 
undoubtedly due to the vision of that statesman and to the influence 
he possessed with the King and Government. The Cabinet and the 
public were grateful to the King for having ventured, at so troubled 
a time, to drive with the Queen beside him through the streets of 
Belfast. Those who actually heard the speech never forgot the intense 
conviction with which it was delivered or the emotion it aroused. 
It in fact inaugurated a new and wiser stage in the whole disordered 
story and, if for that reason alone, it must be textually reproduced: 

'Members of the Senate and of the House of Commons 

For all who love Ireland, as I do with all my heart, this is a 
profoundly moving occasion in Irish history. My memories of the 
Irish people date back to the time when I spent many happy days in 
Ireland as a midshipman. My affection for the Irish people has been 
deepened by successive visits since that time, and I have watched with 
constant sympathy the course of their affairs. 

I could not have allowed myself to give Ireland, by deputy alone, 

1921 The Belfast Speech 

my earnest prayers and good wishes in the new era which opens with 
this ceremony, and I have, therefore, come in person, as Head of the 
Empire, to inaugurate this Parliament on Irish soil. I inaugurate it 
with deep-felt hope, and I fed assured that you will do your utmost to 
make it an instrument of happiness and good government for all parts 
of the community which you represent. 

This is a great and critical occasion in the history of the six 
counties, but not for the six counties alone; for everything which 
interests them touches Ireland, and everything which touches Ireland 
finds an echo in the remotest parts of the Empire. 

Few things are more earnestly desired throughout the English- 
speaking world than a satisfactory solution of the age-long Irish prob- 
lems, which for generations embarrassed our forefathers, as they now 
weigh heavily upon us. 

Most certainly there is no wish nearer my own heart than that 
every man of Irish birth, whatever be his creed, and wherever be his 
home, should work in co-operation with the free communities on which 
the British Empire is based. I am confident that the important matters 
entrusted to the control and guidance of the Northern Parliament will 
be managed with wisdom and moderation; with fairness and due 
regard to every faith and interest, and with no abatement of that 
patriotic devotion to the Empire which you proved so gallantly in the 
Great War. 

Full partnership in the United Kingdom and religious freedom 
Ireland has long enjoyed. She now has conferred upon her the duty of 
dealing with all the essential tasks of domestic legislation and govern- 
ment, and I feel no misgiving as to the spirit in which you who stand 
here today will carry out the all-important functions entrusted to your 

My hope is broader still. The eyes of the whole Empire are on 
Ireland today that Empire in which so many nations and races have 
come together in spite of the ancient feuds, and in which new nations 
have come to birth within the lifetime of the youngest in this hall. I am 
emboldened by that thought to look beyond the sorrow and anxiety 
which have clouded of late my vision of Irish affairs. I speak from a 
full heart when I pray that my coming to Ireland today may prove to 
be the first step towards the end of strife amongst her people, whatever 
their race or creed. 

In that hope I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the 
hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget, and to 
join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment 
and goodwill. 

It is my earnest desire that in Southern Ireland, too, there may, 
ere long, take place a parallel to what is now passing in this hall; that 
there a similar occasion may present itself, and a similar ceremony be 
performed. For this the Parliament of the United Kingdom has in the 
fullest measure provided the powers. For this the Parliament of Ulster 
is pointing the way. 



Mr De Valera approached 1921 

The future lies in the hands of my Irish people themselves. May 
this historic gathering be the prelude of the day in which the Irish 
people^ north and south, under one Parliament or two, as those 
Parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common 
love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and 
respect. 5 


The King was anxious that the atmosphere created by his speech 
in Belfast should not be allowed to evaporate. On the morning of 
July 24 Lord Stamfordham visited the Prime Minister, bringing with 
him a memorandum in which the King strongly advised his Govern- 
ment that no time should be lost: 

e His Majesty', Lord Stamfordham recorded, 'pressed the Government 
not to miss the psychological moment for taking advantage of the 
Sling's utterances, which His Majesty really believed, judging from the 
Press and other sources, were generally well received in Ireland. But 
the moment was a very fleeting one, especially when dealing with a 
quick-witted, volatile and sentimental people, and the opportunity 
must not be let go by.' 

The Prime Minister assured Lord Stamfordham that he and the 
Cabinet entirely shared the King's opinion. In fact, a letter was 
already being drafted, inviting Mr De Valera and Sir James Craig to 
meet British Ministers in conference in London. 

This letter of invitation was taken to Dublin that evening by 
Mr Cope and handed to Mr De Valera. An identical letter was also 
sent to Sir James Craig. It stated that the British Government were 
deeply anxious that c the King's appeal for reconciliation in Ireland 
should not have been made in vain'. *We wish', the letter continued, 
'that no endeavour should be lacking on our part to realise the 
King's prayer and we ask you to meet us, as we will meet you, in the 
spirit of conciliation for which His Majesty appealed. 9 

Mr De Valera replied on June 28 to the effect that he also was 
desirous of securing a lasting peace between the Irish and the 
English, but that he could see 'no avenue by which it can be reached 
if you deny Ireland's essential unity and set aside the principle of 
national self-determination 9 . On the same day Sir James Craig 
accepted the invitation. 

Mr De Valera's answer had not however been a blank refusal. 
He had indicated that he would reply more fully when he had dis- 
cussed the matter with c certain representatives of the political 
minority in this country'. He accordingly invited Sir James Craig, 

General Smuts in Dublin 

Lord Midleton and three others to confer with him in the Mansion 
House in Dublin. Sir James Craig refused, on the ground that he had 
already accepted Mr Lloyd George's invitation to a meeting in Lon- 
don. Lord Midleton accepted. He immediately ascertained that Mr 
De Valera would only consider coming to London if the British 
Government would agree that, pending the results of any discussion, 
both sides should sign a truce. Lord Midleton hurried over to Lon- 
don and with some difficulty induced the Prime Minister to give his 
written consent to this concession. 

Meanwhile General Smuts had also been invited by Mr De 
Valera to come to Dublin. He arrived there on July 5 under the name 
of 'Mr Smith', and had two long discussions with Mr De Valera, 
who was supported by Mr Griffith, Mr Barton and Mr Duggan. On 
his return to London he saw the King at Buckingham Palace and 
furnished him with a detailed account of what had passed: 31 

'General Smuts explained to Mr De Valera that he did not come as an 
emissary of the British Government, nor did he bring any offer from 
them. In fact he had nothing to do with the British Government. He 
came as a friend who had passed through very similar circumstances 
and he could assure them that in England there was an intense desire 
for peace: that the King himself was most anxious for a settlement, and 
General Smuts could assure them that the words uttered in the King's 
speech at Belfest were a true interpretation of His Majesty's feelings. 
Mr De Valera expressed distrust of the British Government or of a 

Conference at the invitation of the British Prime Minister General 

- Smuts pointed out to Mr De Valera in the strongest possible terms that 
in refusing the invitation he would be making the greatest mistake of 
his life. The invitation from the Prime Minister was unconditional, and 
a refusal on his (De Valera's) part would have the worst possible effect 
and would turn public opinion against him in America, indeed all over 
the world, and even in Ireland ' 

Mr De Valera, as General Smuts had expected, laid great stress 
on the 'partition of Ireland 5 as implied in the Home Rule Bill. 
General Smuts argued that it was not partition, but that Ulster, 
which had always blocked previous settlements, was now out of the 
way. Mr De Valera then turned to the question of the Republic; the 
Irish people wanted a Republic, expected a Republic, and had in 
fact elected him as 'President* of the Republic. General Smuts replied 
by saying that he had himself had experience of a Republic and 
could assure him that free membership of the British Commonwealth 
was a far more comfortable status. c As a friend/ he said, fi l cannot 
advise too strongly against a Republic. Ask what you want, but not a 


Mr De Valera in London 

Republic/ Mr De Valera admitted, according to General Smuts' 
account, that 'If the status of a Dominion is offered me, I will use all 
our machinery to get the Irish people to accept it.' 

General Smuts returned from Ireland under the impression that 
Mr De Valera would agree to come to London. He was not mistaken 
in this forecast. Mr De Valera accepted the invitation on July 8. On 
July 10 a formal truce was signed in Dublin between Sir Nevil 
Macready and Mr Richard Mulcahy, Chief of Staff of the Irish 
Republican Army. On July 12 Mr De Valera, accompanied by Mr 
Arthur Griffith and Mr Erskine Ghilders, arrived in London. Their 
first conversation with the Prime Minister took place on July 14 and 
lasted from 4.30 to 7.15 that evening. Two further discussions took 
place on July 15 and 17. Mr Lloyd George, in reporting to the King, 
expressed the view that these interviews had passed off 'reasonably 
well 9 . c On the whole, 5 he wrote, 'I think he saw the force of what I 
said, but he constantly seemed to draw back while I was speaking to 
him.' q These recurrent withdrawals on the part of Mr De Valera 
were not always, as the Prime Minister supposed, gestures of diplo- 
matic caution. In the face of such voluble and dexterous vivacity, 
they represented a retreat natural in a man accustomed to melan- 
choly brooding; a retreat into the long caverns of race-memory, 
hallowed by the blood of saints and martyrs; a retreat into his own 
solitary reticence, into an inner darkness lit by rare smiles of com- 
passion; smiles too faint to stir the muscles of the lips, but flickering 
suddenly and shortly, as the reflection of distant lightning in a 
sombre summer night. 

On July 20 the Prime Minister, after consulting the Cabinet, 
presented to Mr De Valera a long document enumerating the final 
British proposals. They constituted an offer of Irish freedom such as 
no former nationalist would, in his wildest dreams, have conceived 
to be possible. Ireland was to be granted Dominion status with com- 
plete autonomy in taxation and finance, her own law courts, police, 
and defence forces. All that Great Britain demanded in return was 
that the Irish army should be kept 'within reasonable limits 9 , that the 
Royal Air Force should be granted facilities in Irish airports, that 
the British Navy should be accorded essential 'rights and liberties* in 
Irish harbours, and that no protective duties should be imposed by 
the Irish State against British imports. Any settlement, moreover, 
must allow 'for full recognition of the existing powers and privileges 
of the Government of Northern Ireland, which cannot be abrogated 
except by their own consent 9 . 

The British offer rejected 

On the next morning Mr De Valera came to Downing Street and 
informed the Prime Minister that this offer was unacceptable. Mr 
Lloyd George informed the King immediately: 1 * 

10 Downing Street. 
Sir, July 21, 1921. 

Your Majesty will, I know, be deeply disappointed to hear that 
Mr De Valera, who came to see me this morning, had declared him- 
self unable to accept the proposals which I sent him, after submitting 
them to you, last night and given as a basis for discussion. 

He demanded that Ireland should have Dominion status sans 
phrase, any condition such as that regarding the Royal Navy, which we 
consider vital to the safety of these islands, to be left for arrangement 
at a subsequent date between the British and Irish Governments. He 
also demanded that Ulster should become a part of the Irish Dominion. 
Failing this, he demanded, as his only alternative, complete inde- 
pendence for Southern Ireland. 

I told him that the British Government could not consider his 
alternatives, and added that if they represented his last word, the only 
question remaining to be discussed between us was the date and hour 
at which the truce should terminate. This made a deep impression on 
him, and he turned quite livid. I pressed it in order that there might 
be no charges of breach of faith on either side. I also said that I would 
publish our proposals immediately. 

He asked me not to publish them immediately, as this would in- 
crease his difficulties. He proposed to return to Ireland and to send me 
counter-proposals. He also said he would try to confer with Sir James 
Craig. , 

I accepted this, and I understood that he returns to Ireland to- 
morrow. The truce continues pending the communications which he 
has promised. 

There is, I fear, little chance of his counter-proposals being 
satisfactory, but I am absolutely confident that we shall have public 
opinion overwhelmingly upon our side throughout the Empire and 
even in the United States when our proposals are published.' 

Lord Stamfordham replied to this letter saying that the King had 
learnt with 'deep disappointment' that Mr De Valera had rejected 
an offer that appeared to His Majesty to be most wise and generous. 
He was glad that the door was still open for further discussion, but 
he doubted whether Mr De Valera's counter-proposals would be 
acceptable.* These counter-proposals were received on August 1 1 . 
They confirmed Mr De Valera's initial rejection of the British offer, 
insisted that no basis of agreement could be found other than that 
of 'amicable but absolute separation', and suggested that the ques- 
tion of Ulster, as well as that of the Irish share of the National debt, 
might, if all else failed, be submitted to c external arbitration'. 


The truce continues 19** 

On reading this communication, the King, who was staying at 
Bolton Abbey on his way to Balmoral, wrote at once to Lord Stam- 

C I received de Valera's answer in Cabinet box yesterday. It is a hope- 
less document, written by a dreamer & visionary with nothing prac- 
tical about it. ... I hope you will see the P.M. & hear what he pro- 
poses to do. I suppose the Cabinet came to some decision yesterday. I 
trust they will do nothing in a hurry. The great thing is to prolong the 
negotiations & keep the truce as long as possible. I should publish both 
the offer of the Government & de Valera's answer as soon as possible; 
it might help the P.M. & make the moderates force de Valera to be 
reasonable. . . .' 

The Prime Minister, on August 13, replied to Mr De Valera's 
letter stating that the Government were unable to go beyond the 
proposals made on July 20 which presented to the Irish people an 
opportunity such as never dawned in their history before.* The 
British had no desire to derogate from Ireland's full status as a 
Dominion, but they could not accept either secession or arbitration. 
No mention was made in this communication of any intention to 
terminate the truce. 

On August 1 6 the Dail assembled in the Mansion House in 
Dublin and the members took the oath to the Irish Republic. On 
August 25 the Dail unanimously rejected the British offer. It seemed 
that a complete deadlock had been reached. 


Communications were not however sundered. Mr De Valera 
continued to exchange Notes with the Prime Minister, in which 
historical precedents were enlivened by quotations from O'Connell, 
Thomas Davis, and Abraham Lincoln. On August 26 Mr Lloyd 
George wrote to Mr De Valera stating that the truce could not 
indefinitely be prolonged; that its termination would be 'deplor- 
able'; and that it had become the duty of each of them to cease 
exchanging academic arguments and consider whether some basis 
could not be found c upon which further negotiations can usefully 
proceed*. Mr De Valera on August 30 replied to this suggestion by 
insisting on the full application of the principle of self-determination 
and by asserting that no further negotiations would be possible unless 
the respective plenipotentiaries met 'untrammelled by any con- 
ditions save the facts themselves 9 . 

The Prime Minister by that time was on holiday at Gairloch 

Mr Lloyd George at Moy Hall 

in Ross-shire; the King was staying at Moy Hall. On the morning of 
September 7 Mr Lloyd George came to Moy Hall bringing with him 
a draft of the reply to be sent to Mr De Valera's letter of August 30. 
The leading members of the Cabinet had meanwhile been asked to 
assemble in the Town Hall at Inverness: 

The Prime Minister', recorded the King's Assistant Private Secretary, 
Major Hardinge, 1 'told His Majesty that various members of the 
Government, including the Viceroy and the Secretary for Ireland, had 
advised the despatch of a sharp Note, amounting almost to an ultima- 
tum, in reply to Mr De Valera's communication. It had been sug- 
gested that a time-limit should be fixed. 

The King very strongly deprecated any action on these lines, 
which would be interpreted as an attempt by a large country to bully 
a small one into submission, and would undo at once all the good that 
had been done. 

The Prime Minister laid before the King the draft of the proposed 
reply. His Majesty suggested numerous alterations in the text the 
elimination of all threats and contentious phrases (e.g. "Dominion 
Status") and the invitation to Sinn Fein representatives to meet the 
Prime Minister at once for further negotiations. 

The Prime Minister then withdrew, and in company with Sir 
Edward Grigg, drew up a new draft to conform to His Majesty's 
wishes, the conciliatory wording of which was in marked contrast to 
the aggressive tone of the original one. The P.M. then left. He sub- 
mitted the amended draft to the Cabinet, and it was accepted almost 
verbatim and handed to Mr Barton in the afternoon.' u 

Major Hardinge at the same time provided Lord Stamfordham, 
who had not accompanied the King to Moy Hall, with a succinct 
summary of what had taken place: 

'The P.M. came this morning and the King had a very satisfactory 
interview with him. The draft of the reply which the P.M. brought 
with him was most aggressive, and it was entirely due to H.M. that the 
whole tone of it was changed. 9 * 

The amended reply to Mr De Valera, which was handed to Mr 
Barton at the Town Hall of Inverness on the afternoon of September 
7, was in fact the prelude to the final negotiations. It invited Mr De 
Valera to discuss the British proposals 'on their merits' and to enter 
a conference in order to c ascertain how the association of Ireland 
with the community of nations known as the British Empire can best 
be reconciled with Irish national aspirations'. On September 12 
Mr De Valera agreed to enter a Conference on these terms. 

1 Major Hardinge had succeeded Lord Cromcr as Assistant Private 
Secretary on April i, 1920. 


The King's attitude 1921 

An argument then developed as to whether or not the Irish 
plenipotentiaries should come to the conference as recognised 
representatives of an independent state. Mr De Valera, in a telegram 
of September 17, pointed out that he had already been in conference 
with Mr Lloyd George and that c in these conferences and in my 
written communications I have never ceased to recognise myself for 
what I was and what I am. If this involves recognition on your part, 
then you have already recognised us'. The King was afraid that all 
this haggling over terminology might provoke a rupture. On Sep- 
tember 1 8 he telegraphed to the Prime Minister:* 

'Just received Mr De Valera's telegram of the lyth. I cannot help 
thinking that it is intended to be conciliatory and to show his anxiety 
for immediate conference. Has he not made rather a good point that 
your previous conversations were unconditional and that hence you 
recognised him as what he considered himself to be and have been? 
I only send this being anxious to avoid any chance of the extremists 
attributing to you responsibility for abandonment of the Conference. 
My one wish is to help you in this most difficult situation.' 

On September 30 Mr De Valera finally agreed to send delegates 
to a conference in London on the basis of the British invitation of 
September 7. The King, having by his advice, his warnings and his 
encouragement, contributed so materially to this fortunate conclu- 
sion left the future conduct of the negotiations entirely in the hands 
of the Prime Minister. During the two months that the conference 
lasted he refrained from all comment or intervention. His attitude 
throughout furnishes a classic example of correct constitutional 
behaviour and of the proper functioning of Monarchy in a parlia- 
mentary State. 

The Conference opened at Downing Street on October n. The 
British plenipotentiaries were Mr Lloyd George, Lord Birkenhead, 
Mr Winston Churchill, Sir Hamar Greenwood, Sir L. Worthington 
Evans, Mr Austen Chamberlain and Sir Gordon Hewart. The Irish 
were represented by Mr Arthur Griffith, Mr Michael Collins, Mr 
Duggan and Mr Gavin Dufiy. Mr De Valera decided to remain in 
Dublin. The discussions, which were tense and often protracted, 
lasted until December 5. At 2.30 on the morning of December 6 an 
agreement was signed granting to 6 The Irish Free State' the position 
of a Dominion within the Commonwealth. 1 

1 These Articles of Agreement provided for the establishment of an 
Irish Free State possessing within the Commonwealth exactly the same 
status as any other Dominion; the office of Lord Lieutenant was abolished 

The Agreement 

'I got the joyful news 9 , the King wrote in his diary for December 6 
'the first thing this morning from the P.M. that at 2.30 this morning 
articles of agreement were signed between the British representatives 
& the Irish delegates, involving complete acceptance of the British 
Government's proposals. . . . 

It is mostly due to the P.M.'s patience & conciliatory spirit & is a 
great feather in his cap. I trust that now after seven centuries there 
may be peace in Ireland.' 

'The happiest and greatest event', the King wrote to Prince 
George, 'that has happened for many years is the signing of the agree- 
ment with regard to the settlement of the question of Ireland which 
took place in the early hours of the 6th. It means peace in Ireland. For 
700 years the Statesmen have all failed to find a solution & therefore 
the Prime Minister & his colleagues are indeed to be congratulated on 
this great achievement. 9 

The Irish agreement was ratified without delay by the British 
Parliament. After a fierce debate, in which Mr De Valera pleaded 

and the representative of the Crown in the Free State was to be appointed 
in the same manner as the Governor-General in Canada; the Free State 
accepted in principle a share of the National Debt; the armed forces of the 
Free State were not to be proportionately greater than those of the United 
Kingdom; certain harbour facilities were to be granted to Great Britain 
who might maintain detachments at Qjieenstown, Berehaven, and Lough 
Swilly; the Treaty was not to apply to Northern Ireland and a Boundary 
Commission was to be appointed to fix the boundaries between Eire and 
Ulster according to the wishes of the inhabitants. It should be remembered 
that the promise of a Boundary Commission was an important concession 
and one that materially influenced the Irish delegation to sign the Heads 
of Agreement. It was a provision however that was never executed. In 
1925 such a Commission was constituted under the chairmanship of Mr 
Justice Feetham, a judge of the South African High Court. The Govern- 
ment of Northern Ireland refused to be represented on the Commission 
and the representative of the Free State resigned. The Commission was in 
the end disbanded and as a consolation the Free State was released from 
the obligation under the Treaty to assume a share of the National Debt. 

Considerable controversy developed later in regard to the form of oath 
provided for in Article IV: 'I do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance 
to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, arid that 
I will be faithful to H.M. King George V his heirs and successors by law, in 
virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her ad- 
herence to membership of the group of nations forming the British Com- 
monwealth of Nations.' This formula was abolished by the Irish in 1932. 

A lucid and unbiassed account of the negotiations and the proceedings 

of the London Conference will be found in Lord Pakenham's Peace by 

Ordeal. The fifth volume of Mr Churchill's World Crisis is also illuminating 

and valuable. 

MI 361 

The Agreement ratified 1921 

passionately for the rejection of the Treaty, it was accepted by the 
Dail by a narrow majority of 64 to 57. Mr De Valera resigned and 
was succeeded by Arthur Griffith. 

The civil war which thereafter ravaged the Free State and led to 
the death of many valiant men was in no sense the responsibility of 
His Majesty's Government. 




The Prince of Wales' visits to the Dominions and India The King's 
relations with his children The decline in the prestige of Mr Lloyd 
George The Cannes Conference The Genoa Conference The 
Chanak crisis The Carlton Club Meeting Mr Bonar Law suc- 
ceeds Mr Lloyd George as Prime Minister The King and the Greek 
Royal Family Our relations with France and Italy The King's 
visit to Rome The Lausanne Conference The King on the Sudan 
Mr Bonar Law's illness and resignation The King sends for Mr 
Baldwin Lord Curzon's disappointment Mr Baldwin's first 
administration He asks for a dissolution The King seeks to 
dissuade him The resultant Election. 


IT is with a shock of sad surprise that a busy man of later middle-age 
realises that his sons and daughters are no longer children. The King, 
at the time of the armistice, was fifty-three. The Prince of Wales was 
twenty-four; Prince Albeit on the verge of twenty-three; Princess 
Mary twenty-one; Prince Henry eighteen and Prince George six- 
teen: 1 

'Yes,' the King wrote to Lord Stamfordham on January 3, 1920, c my 
sons have begun well, especially the eldest, who has become most 
popular & has already made a name for himself. They will be of great 
assistance to me in the future/ a 

The Prince of Wales, during the war, had served in France, Egypt 
and Italy. With the coming of peace he was despatched on three 
wide tours. In August 1919 he left on a four months journey to New- 
foundland, Canada and the United States. In March 1920 he visited 

1 Prince Albert was created Duke of York on June 5, 1920. On April 
26, 1923, he married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the four- 
teenth Earl of Strathmore. Prince Henry was created Duke of Gloucester 
in 1928 and in November 1935 married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas- 
Scott, daughter of the seventh Duke of Buccleuch. Prince George was 
created Duke of Kent in October 1934 and in November of that year 
married Princess Marina, daughter of Prince Nicolas of Greece. Princess 
Mary married Viscount Lascelles, eldest son of the fifth Earl of Harewood 
on February 28, 1 922. 


The Prince of Wales' travels 1921-1922 

Australia and New Zealand, calling at Barbadoes, Honolulu, Fiji 
and Bermuda. He returned to England in October. He was accorded 
a separate establishment at York House, St. James's Palace, and 
remained in England for twelve months. 

In the autumn of 1921 the Government decided, after prolonged 
hesitation, that a royal visit to India might avail to mitigate dis- 
sension and to salve discontent. This was a hazardous experiment. 
The calamity of Amritsar was still, two years after the event, infect- 
ing the Indian peoples with bitter violence; Mahatma Gandhi had 
only recently concluded with the Moslem leaders an alliance for the 
overthrow of British rule. The Indian visit was not an unqualified 
success. Serious riots occurred in Bombay; at Benares and Allahabad 
the Prince was subjected to an organised boycott. Yet again and 
again the sullen crowds were moved by the gaiety and pathos of his 
personality; they forgot their resentment and responded with enthusi- 
astic acclaim to the shy courage with which he moved among them. 
The officials may have doubted whether the political effects of this 
tour justified the risks entailed; but there was nothing but unstinted 
admiration for the personal part the Prince had played. After visit- 
ing the North- West Frontier Province, the Prince sailed by way of 
Colombo, Singapore and Hong Kong for Japan, where he remained 
four weeks. He returned to England on June 20, 1922, after an ab- 
sence of eight months. 

It was with ardent and often anxious interest that the King fol- 
lowed the imperial progresses of his eldest son. He was all too regu- 
larly supplied with cuttings from the Dominion and American news- 
papers and would scrutinise these extracts with scrupulous if be- 
wildered care. Accustomed as he was to the traditional reticence of 
the British press, the King did not fully appreciate the more vivid 
temper of overseas journalism, or realise that these intrusive re- 
porters were less interested in official functions, which the Prince 
performed with due solemnity, than in those interludes of relaxation, 
when he behaved with the unconventionality of a most vivacious 
young man. The King was perturbed to learn that at a rodeo at 
Saskatoon the Prince had entranced the assembled crowds by jump- 
ing on the back of a bronco and riding round the ring. He was 
rendered anxious by paragraphs intimating that at receptions or 
dances the Prince, when confronted with the wives of officials, was 
apt to take evasive action and to prefer the company of people of his 
own age. In vain did the Governors of the several Colonies or 
Dominions assure His Majesty of the correctitude of the Prince's 

I922 The King and his children 

conduct and of the 'blazing popularity 5 that he had acquired. 
The King was less assuaged by these official assurances than he 
was irritated by the flippant or imaginative press cuttings that he 

Mr John Gore, in his Personal Memir* has devoted several 
penetrating pages to an analysis of King George's unwillingness or 
inability to appreciate the changing habits of the younger genera- 
tion. Even in this political biography it is necessary if only to 
assure the reader that no single shadow has been shirked to make 
some allusion to the fact that the King failed to establish with his 
children, at least until they married, those relations of equable and 
equal companionship that are the solace of old age. How came it 
that a man, who was by temperament so intensely domestic, who 
was so considerate to his dependents and the members of his house- 
hold, who was so unalarming to small children and humble people, 
should have inspired his sons with feelings of awe, amounting at 
times to nervous trepidation? He may have felt that, bred as they 
had been in the artificial atmosphere of a Court, they needed a 
discipline, the rigours of which he alone was in the position to apply. 
He may have exaggerated the contrast between the remembered 
ordeals of his own youthful training and what seemed to him the 
softer slackness of a degenerate age. He may have sought some- 
times by irritated disapproval, more often by vociferous chaff to 
check in them what he vaguely recognised as the revolt of post-war 
youth against the standards and conventions in which he had him- 
self been nurtured. He may even have regarded his immediate 
family as a ship's company of whom he was the master and the 
martinet, and have adopted towards them a boisterous manner 
which, however suited to the quarter-deck, appeared intimidating 
when resounding amid the chandeliers and tapestries of palatial 
saloons. Although sensitive, he did not always exercise imaginative 
insight into the sensibility of others. In seeking to instil into his 
children his own ideals of duty and obedience, he was frequently 
pragmatic and sometimes harsh. 

This attitude of restless and sometimes querulous disapproval 
melted away so soon as his children married; thereafter he ceased to 
complain of their conduct, their apparel or their friends. Immedi- 
ately they found again the genial affection that had endeared him to 
them in their childhood. 

On February 28, 1922, Princess Mary was married to Lord 


The Duchess of York 1922 

'I went up', the King wrote that evening, 'to Mary's room & took 

leave of her & quite broke down Felt very down & depressed now 

that darling Mary has gone.' 

On April 26, 1923, his second son, the Duke of York, married 
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in Westminster Abbey: 

'You are indeed a lucky man,' the King wrote to him three days later, 
c to have such a charming & delightful wife as Elizabeth. I am sure 
you will both be very happy together. I trust you both will have many 
many years of happiness before you & that you will be as happy as 
Mama & I am after you have been married for 30 years. I can't wish 

you more You have always been so sensible & easy to work with 

& you have always been ready to listen to any advice & to agree with 
my opinions about people & things that I fed we have always got on 
very well together. Very different to dear David.' 

For his daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York, the King acquired 
and for ever retained, the deepest affection: 

'The better I know,' he wrote to her husband from Balmoral on 
September 20, 1923, 'and the more I see of your dear little wife, the 
more charming I think she is & everyone falls in love with her here.' 

Even in his later years, when illness had come to cloud his old 
high spirits, she at least was able to revive his gaiety: 

'I miss him dreadfully*, she wrote to Lord Dawson of Perm after his 
death. 'Unlike his own children, I was never afraid of him, and in all 
the twelve years of having me as a daughter-in-law he never spoke one 
unkind or abrupt word to me, and was always ready to listen and give 
advice on one's own silly little affairs. He was so kind and so dependable. 
And when he was in the mood, he could be deliciously funny too ! Don't 
you think so?' 

The Prince of Wales did not marry during his father's life time. 


It might have been expected that, with the conclusion of the 
Irish Agreement of December 6, 1921, Mr Lloyd George would have 
maintained and fortified the predominance that he had enjoyed 
since the fall of Mr Asquith. From that moment, however, his 
position weakened. Many of his Unionist allies regarded the Irish 
settlement, not as a triumph of patient negotiation, but as a sur- 
render, even as a betrayal. A difference of opinion arose between him 
and the Unionist